Pyongyang’s monuments and architecture
During a city tour the guides will show their guests the things the DPRK is proud of, so the emphasis will be on the big monuments and buildings that should testify to the superiority of the Korean version of communism. Large monuments and imposing buildings is one thing that Pyongyang is certainly not lacking! Pyongyang’s most famous landmarks are the Juche tower, the Arc of Triumph, the Grand Kim Il Sung monument at Mansu hill, the reunification monument, the Revolutionary Martyrs cemetery and the monument to the Victorious fatherland. Well known from TV is the central Kim Il Sung square where parades are held with endless colons of military equipment and thousands of ecstatic people cheer for the president. It is usually not possible to visit normal neighbourhoods, streets and residential buildings.
Monument: The tower of the Juche idea
The 170 meter tall Juche tower (officially named the Tower of the Juche idea) is probably Pyongyang’s best known monument (together with the giant Kim Il Sung statue on Mansu Hill). It is sited on the east bank of the Taedong river opposite Kim Il Sung Square. The statue was build to commemorate Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday and was completed in 1982. Official North Korean sources claim the statue was build in 35 day’s, dressed in 76 day’s and designed by Kim Jung Il personally. The tower is made of 25,550 blocks and there is a big illuminated metal torch on the top. Associated with the tower is a 30 meter high statue consisting of three figures, a worker holding a hammer, peasant holding a sickle, and an intellectual holding a writing brush. The tower is named after the North Korean state principle Juche developed by Kim Il Sing. Juche is a bled of autarky, self reliance, Korean traditionalism and socialism.
Monument: The arc of triumph
Monument: The reunification monument
The Arc of Triumph was erected in 1982 to honour and glorify President Kim Il Sung’s role in the resistance Japan from 1925 to 1945. Pyongyang’s Arc is modelled after the Arc de Triumph in Paris. It is the largest arch in the world, and was deliberately built to be larger than the one in Paris like Ceausescu’s Unirii Blvd. in Bucharest that had to be wider then the Champs Elyse. Inscribed in the Arch is the "Song of General Kim Il Sung", and the year 1925, when North Korean history states that Kim set out on the journey for national liberation and the year 1945, the end of World War II, which ended the Japanese occupation. The Arc of Triumph is sited on the foot of Moran Hill opposite the Kim Il Sung Stadium.
The Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification was erected in 2001 to express the wish for reunification by the Korean people. The arched monument is build just outside Pyongyang over the Tongil Expressway to Panmunjom. It depicts two women in traditional Korean dresses holding a map of Korea. "Three Charters for National Reunification" refers to the north Korean reunification program defined by Kim Jung Il. The three chapters are the principles of independence, peaceful reunification and great national unity. Reunification according the North Korean vision means that the US occupation of the South should end and that one Korea should be led by Kim Il Sung.
Monument: Revolutionary Martyr’s Cemetery
Monument: The victorious fatherland
The Revolutionary Martyrs cemetery was built in 1975 on mount Taesong and enlarged in 1985. Via a monumental gate wide stairs will lead to the sculpture groups and the memorial pillars. Heroes who died before this cemetery was built have been reburied here. New graves are added when old revolutionaries die. On each grave there is a bronze bust of the deceased war hero. There is a large red granite flag at the end of the complex with a bust Kim Jong Suk the wife of Kim Il Sung.
The monument to the victorious fatherland was built in 1993, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Korean war with the armistice in 1953. It is composed of a gate, the Victory Tower and ten sculpture groups.
Monument: Mansu hill
Monument: Chollima statue
Monument: Party founding
A giant bronze statue of Kim Il Sung erected in 1972 looking to the horizon and pointing his people in the right direction overlooks Pyongyang from Mansu hill. The statue is covered by two groups of sculptures with North Korean flags and figures depicting war and revolutionary struggle. The steps in front of the statue or constantly cleaned by volunteers and many North Koreans visit the monument to pay respect to Kim Il Sung.
The 46 meter high Chollima statue on Mansu Hill was completed in 1961. It was build to honour the heroism and invincible fighting spirit of the Korean people like the legendary winged horse Chollima that is said to cover a thousand ri in a day. Mounted on the winged horse are a worker holding high the "Red Letter" of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and a young peasant woman holding a sheaf of rice.
The Monument for the party founding is located across the Taedong river in the direct line of sight of the statue of President Kim Il Sung on Mansu Hill. The monument was erected for the 50 year jubilee of the Korean Workers Party founding in October 1995. The tower measures 50 meters in height and its three components are a hammer, sickle and writing brush which represent the worker, the peasant and the intellectual.
Main city square: Kim Il Sung square
Kim Il Sung square is the central square of Pyongyang where dances, parades and mass rallies take place on important national holidays. There are museums and governmental buildings around the 75,000 m2 square. On the buildings around the square you can see portraits of Kim Il Sung, Marx, and Lenin. The biggest building on the square is the grand study hall of the people, a library build in 1982 holding over 30 million books. There is a tribune overseeing the square from where party officials and guest (like ourselves) can oversee the dances, parades and mass rallies. Other main buildings on the square are the communist party headquarters, the Korean art gallery and the Korean central history museum. The square is situated on the bank of the Taedong river, there is a great view on the river fountains and the Juche tower on the other site of the river. A river cruise and lunch can be enjoyed on passenger ship nr1.
Architecture: The public buildings of Pyongyang
Pyongyang was totally destroyed after the Korean war and rebuild with Chine and Soviet money to be a showcase of a socialist architecture. The whole city is packed with giant monumental buildings celebrating the benefits of socialism and glorifying the great leader. Many buildings are build during the nineteen eighties or even the nineties.
Architecture: Pyongyang’s residential area’s
It is unemotionally not possible to visit some residential area’s outside Pyongyang’s monumental city centre. So it is really hard see how normal North Korean’s life. Visitors do get some idea however when they drive trough town or look over the city from the hotel room. Most residential houses are concrete high rise buildings as seen in eastern Europe.
Architecture: Pyongyang sports facilities
Traditional ways of promoting the success of communist ideology are achieving success in sports and building monumental architecture. Both are combined in sports accommodations, something that Pyongyang has plenty of. The city counts 3 giant stadiums, each of them can easily host a major sports event like a football final or even the Olympics. Most spectacular is the May Day stadium with 150.000 seats build in 1989, the famous mass events are held here. Kim Il Sung Stadium was totally renovated in 1982 and has 100.000 seats. Finally there is the Yanggakdo Football stadium with 30.000 seats were North Korea plays it football matches. Two other prominent buildings are the indoor stadium (also used for mass gymnastics) and the ice rink. Very impressive is Chongchun Street a street with a separate sports building for many different sports. Chongchun Street was build in an effort to co-host the 1988 Olympics with South Korea, politics got in the way and no Olympic events took place in Pyongyang.
Documentary: 1966 World championship football "the game of their lives"
North Korea’s biggest football success was reaching the quarter final of the 1966 world championship in England. The first match was lost 3-0 against the Soviet Union. In the next game against Chile they were down 1-0 with the clock ticking away, with two minutes left Pak Sung-jin, the number eight, scored a tremendous equalizer, which then gave them a chance of at least qualifying. They played Italy in their final group game, and absolutely incredibly the Italians who were fancied to win the tournament were beaten by 1-0. By now the people of Middlesbrough where North Korea played it’s group matches were won over by the sparkling Korean football, they had taken the North Koreans to their hearts. 3000 fans from Middlesbrough followed the North Korean team to Liverpool for their crucial game against Portugal. North Korea were leading 3-0 after half an hour. But then Portugal’s legendary Eusebio stepped in to score four goals. The Portuguese eventually won 5-3. An English documentary called the game of their lives tells the story of the Korean football team in Middlesbrough.