My trip to the DPRK or North Korea has been already almost a half year ago but there is so much more to write about this trip (read other posts here). In this post I will take you to the five most important monuments in Pyongyang. Each of them is devoted to the great leader or the party. Each one is a must to see and you WILL see them if you book a trip to North Korea. No schedule is without these magnificent North Korea monuments 🙂
Arch of Triumph
The Arch of Triumph is in most tours the first monument you will see in Pyongyang directly after your arrival by plane. If you have flexibility in your trip I suggest visiting Mansu Hill Grand Monument directly after the Arch of Triumph on the day of arrival to safe time on the next days. As I booked the trip as a private tour I had a lot of flexibility to fill my days with my wishes. This does need advance planning with the tour operator and the North Korean tourism authority to get all the permissions. Read about my planning here.
The Arch of Triumph is built to commemorate the liberation from the Japanese in 1945. The monument was completed in 1982 on the 70th birthday of Kim Il-sung. It is built with so many blocks as the president’s age in days, which is 25.550 blocks. You will learn all the facts from your guides and also that it is 10 meters taller as the Arc de Triumph in Paris. Everything has a meaning and is built to perfection. I was quite impressed and this was just the first thing I saw in Pyongyang.
Mansu Hill Grand Monument
The most important one of the North Korea monuments is the Mansu Hill Grand Monument. In Korean called Mansudae. It is located on a hill in Pyongyang with the same name Mansu Hill. The Mansu Hill Grand Monument consists of two statues made from bronze, a wall depicting the sacred mountain Paektu and two monuments on each side. The statue of Kim Il-sung was erected after his death in 1972 and the second statue of Kim Jong-Il was added after his dead. The two monuments on the sides consist of a lot of people like farmers, soldiers and workers.
When you arrive to the place you have to buy flowers to put at the foot of the statues. Don’t be cheap, and buy the more expensive flowers. It is not needed but appreciated. You will then walk to the monument and put the flowers and make a bow for the eternal president Kim Il-sung. After this you have time to walk around and make photos. Just make sure that the statues are visible in full in all of your photos as partial photography is not allowed. From here continue to your hotel for check-in and dinner and have a great evening in the bar with your guides while enjoying some local beer.
Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is the mausoleum of the eternal president Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il. When entering the building you will pass security check points and leave your phone and camera there because no photography is allowed inside the building. You will then pass long corridors with paintings of the life of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Once you arrive in the main building you will enter the chamber of each one where their embalmed bodies are on display in glass sarcophagus. You will make three bows, one standing at the feet, and one from both sides. I will never forget this unique and impressive experience to stand in front of the eternal president Kim Il-sung. After visiting the two rooms with the bodies you will enter various rooms with all kinds of diploma’s, awards and other memorabilia. There is a room with the train, boat and the plane the presidents used for travel.
Once outside you will enter the park and square in front of the building. Here you are allowed to photograph. After a short walk the tour ends and you will go to your next destination. Normally the Mausoleum is visited in the morning and after you will visit the Juche tower and the Monument of the Party. Note that children are not allowed inside the Mausoleum and you have to come in formal clothing for respect to the great leader.
Kim Il-sung is the founding father of the Juche idea which is an ideology based on tradition, to be and stay Korean and blend with Marxism and Leninism. The Juche Tower was built in 1982 to commemorate the Juche Idea on the 70th birthday of Kim Il-sung. Like the Arch of Triumph this tower is also built with 25.500 blocks, one for each day of the life of Kim Il-sung. In front of the monument you find the statues of the workers, peasants and the intellectual holding a hammer, sickle and a brush respectively. The latter being an important part of the Juche idea. To go to the top is a must to do as from the top you have great views of Pyongyang skyline and the Taedong River.
The Monument of the Party
Not far from the Juche tower is the Monument of the Party. The Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) is the founding party of the DPRK or North Korea and the sole party in the Government of North Korea. The symbol of the party is like the traditional sickle and hammer from various communist parties but with the brush added for the intellectual people. This is part of the Juche idea of the founding father Kim Il-sung.
I will never forget this unique and impressive experience to stand in front of the eternal president Kim Il-sung.
The monument is erected in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The monument consists of the three symbols (hammer, sickle and brush) held by hands made out of stone arranged on top of a circle. The monument is 50 meters high symbolizing the 50th anniversary. Inside the circle you find three sculptures of heroic moments from the history of the DPRK. It is an impressive monument like all the North Korea monuments. If you visit the Juche tower and the Monument of the Party in the afternoon then go to the microbrewery nearby to taste one of the seven bears they locally brew.
My take on the North Korea Monuments
I am a fan of communist architecture. I like the use of concrete and that everything is oversized. It shows power. I’m not going to debate if this is good or bad power but the architecture I like. The symbols are also thought of into details. Like 25.500 stones for every day of Kim Il-sun’s life, 50 meters high representing the 50th anniversary and so on.
Everywhere I found myself very welcomed and received a lot of background information on everything. Due to the fact that every trip is arrange beforehand it sometimes is difficult to visit a place actually planned for the next day a day early if there is time left. If you travel privately try to plan something additional to the regular schedule as you will visit everything a bit faster than in a group. The monuments fit nicely in your day of arrival and one day more. You have plenty of time to see them all and enjoy these monuments. I recommend everyone to go to North Korea and see the country with your own eyes. It’s a must!
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Gallery of North Korea monuments
Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.
GPS Track of this trip
During my trips I make GPS tracks. Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips. (note: if the map does not show click the download link to download and open in google earth).