Wednesday, August 29, 2012


As Pyongyang is the capital and showpiece city for the North Korean government, I was told to expect it to be clean. Just how clean I could not have imagined prior to arriving. It's not clean, it's spotless. Never in my life have I seen a city so clean that it practically gleamed (actually, that's not true, the tourist district of West Berlin kind of felt that way). While this feeling is mostly due to the fact that a large amount of effort does go into keeping it looking this way (South Korea, I implore you, please look to your northerly neighbours for some anti-littering advice), it is definitely helped by the city's grandiose architecture. Large pristine white (or pale gray) public buildings and wide green-lined boulevards dwarf people cars and any other objects, making them seem more inconsequential as a result. While this is definitely by design - emphasizing the dominance of society as a whole over any smaller part - it's not a design I can criticize. A completely different feel from Beijing.  

Sadly, the scale of the architecture combined with small population size (relative to Beijing I mean, total pop. of Pyonyang as of 2008 was 2.5million in a 3,100sq m area - that's 8 times fewer people in a 5th of Beijing's space) and lack of privately owned cars can also make the city feel somewhat empty or abandoned (though not if you're on the subway during rush hour!). Never-the-less, it's a beautiful city, and I should probably stop talking about it and show it to you instead!

Not a destination you see everyday.
Visa in hand!
Our chariot
The Times.
I can't, unfortunately, do the flight justice. The first class cabin was much nicer than ours. 
No, that's not smoke, it's extremely high-powered AC...
Our island-based hotel. One of two (the other being the Koryo Hotel) foreigner hotels in Pyongyang 

The view from my room with the infamous Ryugyong Hotel in the background
The Taedong River.
A view of Pyongyang when the lights are out.

Break time in the Fountain Square

The famous bronze statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il

and the monuments flanking them.

Behind them is the Peoples' Museum of Revolutionary Ideas
Dear Leaders and Honoured Mother memorialized at the Institute of Art. 

One of the DPRK's phenomenal master artists

This, believe it or not, is all hand embroidered. And it's huge! 

Sand painting

Shell work

Double layer artwork
The still not completed Ryugyong Hotel

Entering Pyongyang's Buheung (부흥, revitalization) Metro Station

Pyongyang Metro is the deepest system in the world - and boy does the descent feel like it! 

A light up wall map.

The trains!
This is one of the particularly beautiful stations, the other's are nothing to scoff at. 
Not yet rush hour, you should've seen the deluge of people that come on at the next stop. 

A Pyongyang Metro smart fare card - Toronto Transit Commission, please take note. 

One of the Safety Ladies. The walls are lined with beautiful mosaics.

Yeonggwang (영광, enlightenment) Station, another of the stunning ones. We rode 6 stops in total. 

Riders read the Rodong Shinmun (로동신문, Workers' Paper) as they wait. 
Ridership is estimated at 300,000-700,000/day. Above ground run public electric powered buses connecting to other parts of the city. 

The DPRK's Arch of Triumph - sitting 11 meters taller than the one in France! 

The Grand People's Study House (인민대학습당) where you can take all manner of free courses, question a philosopher or just go to enjoy a book.
The Great Leader in front of Mt Paekdu

Searching the catalogue

Disturbing the students.

A Photoshop Lecture

English Class!
Students gathered out front of the Grand People's Study House in order to practice for the annual Torch Light Parade (due to have taken place today, August 29th).
The Monument to Party Foundation - celebrating the 50th year of Kim Il-sung. 

The Juche (Spirit of Self Reliance) Tower - celebrating the 70th year of Kim Il-sung - with parade practice in the foreground.

From the top of the Tower. A view of the Grand Peoples' Study House.

The lovely Yanggakdo Hotel & Island

Into the city.

Up to the eternal flame

Party monument representing the worker, the farmer and the intellectual artist/philosopher. 

Bikes on the ban

Kim Il-sung above the gate to Kim Jong-il's film studio.

A fierce battle!

The rural setting.

A China-town
Not a set but, rather, Mangyondae (망용대), the birth-place of Kim Il-sung.

Mangyeongdae (만경대) School Children's Palace, where the best of the best go after school to train in their chosen art forms or activities. 

They were phenomenal.

Dance class.

The Peoples' Instrument.



and Space!

The USS Pueblo - an alleged US spy ship boarded and captured by the North Koreans in 1968.

A view of the river trawlers from the ship

The trawling is designed to reduce overflow during flooding in the rainy season. 

A brightly lit Arch of Triumph and a family en route to the Kaeson Fun Fair (개선유희장). 

Lining up for the rides. A familiar sight at any theme park.

We had to pay per ride, citizens pay a fairly low entry fee and then ride for free :). 

Bumper cars with the kids!

The Friendship Monument aiming toward Reunification
Pyongyang's Train Station and a farewell to Chosun (the DPRK)! 


Anonymous said...

Did you join in the English or dance classes?

I've seen that kind of embroidery painting before. There's a Korean man who does it near Peterborough, and it's just an incredibly beautiful result. My parents have two tiny ones in their kitchen.

Also, I love that their hero statue is of the farmer, worker and artist.

Ally S said...

Didn't join in the Dance class but I was one of the first to join in the English class - their level of proficiency was remarkable!

Yeah, that statue makes me happy too!