What is the story behind North Korea’s secret garden hidden in Damascus?

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During the civil war in 2015, the Syrian regime opened a public park in the capital Damascus, in honor of North Korea’s first supreme leader, Kim Il-sung. Adding furthermore to the mystery, the public is prohibited from entering the garden. This reflects the Syrian regime’s determination to retains it as a symbol of the special secret relationship between the two presidents, according to the French newspaper, Le Monde.

Le Monde reveals that the park is located in the town of Kafr Sousse, south-west of Damascus, close to a building belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sham City Center, one of the largest commercial centers in the Syrian capital.

The park is a meeting point for children of the newly rich who live in high-rise residential towers. It is where they spend their time drinking“Polo”, a high-priced lemon and mint juice, and smoke hookah. During the summer of 2017, as the civil war raged and rockets lit sky, the park remained distant and shielded from all the commotion.

When locals are queried about the Kim Il-sung Park, they raise their eyebrows in wonder, oblivious to who this leader is. Kim Il-sung ruled from 1948-1994, and is the grandfather of the current North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

The park was inaugurated on August 31, 2015 in the presence of Syrian Deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, and other officials from both countries. Despite what was announced as a significant opening by the Syrian Arab News Agency, it is still difficult to determine the exact location of the park.

According to Syrian Authorities, the park covers an area of 9,000 square meters. It is fenced and can only be accessed by individuals who hold keys to its large gate.

The park is home to a monument surprisingly built 13 years before its opening. It has the birth-date of the Kim Il-sung and describes him as “The eternal leader of the Korean people and the dear friend of the Syrians”.

Despite hinting at the obvious cooperation between North Korea and the Syrian regime, the park has triggered speculation about why Damascus, specifically in the midst of a civil war, is beholden to the Pyongyang regime.