The Agostinho Neto Center of Culture is a massive national park that the Angolan government is building on 12,000 sq. m of land in the capital city Luanda in memory of its first president. On Oct. 24, the entrance was firmly shut with a black iron gate. Through barred windows, three or four Asian workers could be seen: they are staff of North Korea's Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, which earns much-needed foreign currency for the regime from massive construction projects and monumental sculpture in the developing world.
Initially, the Agostinho Neto Center was commissioned to a Brazilian construction company, but work came to a halt until the North Koreans took over at the end of 2007.
The North Korean workers are living together in temporary wooden accommodation in a corner of the construction site. There are reportedly 100 to 120 of them in Angola. North Korea supported independence movements and civil wars of some African countries, and has been involved in some large construction projects there based on the diplomatic ties built this way. The North provided military aid to the side currently in power during the Angolan civil war and is reportedly building other parks and peace monuments in Cabinda and Huambo, one or two hours away by plane from Luanda.
The Daily NK reported North Korea has earned at least US$160 million in construction projects in Africa since 2000. A South Korean resident in Angola said, "Although North Korean workers only get minimum living cost from their government, they make additional money by working on smaller-scale projects locally when they have some spare time waiting for equipment or materials to arrive."
One North Korean worker said, "When we go to the site for work, we sometimes get Angolan traditional congee called Fungi. It's delicious. We eat better here than in North Korea because we can get rice from Chinese construction firms."
In a predominantly black residential area in Luanda, there is a pharmacy run by a North Korean doctor in a shabby one-story building. "I work at a national hospital in the morning, and run this pharmacy privately in the afternoon. This is the only way I can make the ends meet," he said.
According to a local source, there are about 180 North Korean doctors across Angola, including about a dozen in Luanda. There are also North Korean doctors in Mozambique and Congo, and some practice oriental medicine. At the pharmacy, acupuncture costs $80 for the first treatment and $40 thereafter.