"Pyongyang" means "Flat Land" in Korean. On 25 August 1945, the 25th army of the Soviet Army entered Pyongyang, and it
became the de facto capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at its establishment in 1948. At that time, the Pyongyang
government aimed to recapture Korea's official capital at that time, Seoul.
Pyongyang was reduced to rubble during the Korean War and has been entirely rebuilt according to a design reflecting Kim
Il-Sung's vision. His dream was to create a capital that would boost the morale and ego of Koreans in the post-war years. The result
is a city with wide, tree-lined boulevards and monumental public buildings with terraced landscaping, mosaics and decorated
ceilings. Foreign visitors often describe Pyongyang as one of the most beautiful cities they have seen.
The streets are laid out in a north-south, east-west grid, giving the city an orderly appearance. North Korean designers applied the
Swedish experience of self-sufficient urban neighbourhoods throughout the entire country, and Pyongyang is no exception. Its
inhabitants are mostly divided into administrative units of 5,000 to 6,000 people (dong). These units all have similar sets of
amenities including a food store, a barber shop, a tailor, a public bathhouse, a post office, a clinic, a library and others. Many
residents occupy high-rise apartment buildings. One of Kim Il-Sung's priorities in designing Pyongyang was to limit the population.
Authorities maintain a restrictive regime of movement into the city, making it atypical of East Asia as it is quiet, uncrowded and
Most tourists are lodged at the Yanggakdo Hotel.
This is a 47 story hotel with 1001 rooms. The
hotel is located on Yanggak Island in the river
Taedong which is convenient for authorities since
tourists are not permitted to venture out on their
own.The structure was built between 1986 and
1992 by France's Campenon Bernard
Construction Company and opened in 1995.
Our room was on the 30th floor with a great view including this view down showing we were confined to an island.
The most prominent building in Pyongyang is the Ryugyong Hotel, a 105-story pyramid-shaped skyscraper, still under construction.
The building is also known as the 105 Building, a reference to its number of floors. Construction began in 1987 but was halted in
1992 as North Korea entered a period of economic crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union.
After 1992 the building stood topped out, but without any windows or interior fittings. In 2008 construction resumed. In 2011, the
exterior was completed. The opening of the hotel has been scheduled several times but postponed.
With its many wide open spaces, Pyongyang is the most attractive modern city that I have visited.
The view out our hotel windows included the the Juche Tower and the Rungnado May Day Stadium.,
The Tower of the Juche Ideais named after the ideology of Juche introduced by its first Kim Il-sung. The word Juche is translated to
"self-reliance" in the Korean language. The religion of self-reliance was created by Kim Il-sung in 1956.
Completed in 1982, the Juche Tower is situated on the eastern bank of
the River Taedong, directly opposite Kim Il-sung Square on the western
side of the river to commemorate Kim Il-sung's 70th birthday. The 560
foot structure is a four-sided tapering 490 foot spire – the tallest in
granite – containing 25,550 blocks (365 × 70: one for each day of Kim
Il-sung's life, excluding supplementary days for leap years), dressed in
white stone with seventy dividers and capped with a 66 ft-high 45-ton
illuminated metal torch. The tower is presumed to be modelled on the
Washington Monument, which it surpasses in height by less than a
meter.We were scheduled to ascend the tower by elevator for wide
views over Pyongyang from the viewing platform just below the torch,
but that activity was canceled because of festivities at the tower
celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Labor Party.
The Rungnado May Day Stadium was completed on May 1, 1989.
The Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang was built to commemorate the Korean resistance to Japan from 1925 to 1945. It is the second
tallest triumphal arch in the world, after Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico, standing 197 ft. Built in 1982 on the Triumph Return
Square the monument was built to honour and glorify President Kim Il-sung's role in the military resistance for Korean
independence. Inaugurated on the occasion of his 70th birthday, each of its 25,500 blocks of finely-dressed white granite
represents a day of his life up to that point. The structure is modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris but is 33 feet taller. The
arch has dozens of rooms, balustrades, observation platforms and elevators. It also has four vaulted gateways, each 89 feet high.
Inscribed in the arch is the revolutionary hymn "Song of General Kim Il Sung"
The Grand People's Study House is the central library located in
the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. The building is situated on
Kim Il-sung Square by the banks of the Taedong River. The Study
House was constructed in a traditional Korean style in April 1982
over a period of 21 months to celebrate leader Kim Il-sung's 70th
birthday. The library has 600 rooms. The building can house up to
30 million books. Foreign publications are available only with
The monument to the Foundation of the Worker’s Party was built in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the party.
The Monument to the Three-Point Charter for National Reunification is a sculptural arch located south of Pyongyang. It was opened
in August 2001 to commemorate Korean reunification proposals put forward by Kim Il-sung. The concrete arch straddles the
multi-laned Reunification Highway leading from Pyongyang to the DMZ. It consists of two Korean women in traditional dress,
symbolizing the North and the South, leaning forward to jointly uphold a sphere bearing a map of a reunified Korea. The sphere is
the emblem of the Three Charters; the Three Principles of National Reunification; the Plan of Establishing the Democratic Federal
Republic of Koryo and the Ten Point Program of the Great Unity of the Whole Nation. The original plan was to have a 55-metre
pillar with three branches to represent Koreans in the north, the south, and overseas.
Pyongyang Station is the main station in North Korea and it connects most of the cities of the country: The original station was
constructed in the 1920s. During the Korean War, the original structure was destroyed and later on rebuilt in the early sixties in the
style of socialist architecture. The station presently has three floors above ground level as well as a basement.
On our final night in Pyongyang, we went to a concert in this concert hall. The building was amazing. Unfortunately, no cameras
were permitted. Unlike the US where cameras may be banned but people sneek in their cameras or smart phones, the security at
this concert was intense. Everyone attending was searched with electronic wands and all electronic devices including smart phones
had to be checked in before entering the theater.
The performance that night was by a totally new group called CHONG BONG. We are the first Americans to attend their
performance! The inside of the concert hall was much more magnificent than anything we have in Seattle. The lighting, sound, and
video effects were state of the art. The first half of the concert was dedicated to the Korean War with videos accompanying the
music. In the second half there was a medley of American numbers beginning with Oh Susana.
The big spurt in growth in the DPRK was in the 80s with Soviet assistance. However, there has been new construction. This group
of apartments was completed in 2011.
The apartments below had just been completed for academics and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the labor party.
Most of the roads in the DPRK are in need of maintenance. Despite the pot holes, the roads are very clean and the road side well
maintained. Flowers like this line the roads for mile after mile and are kept weeded.
One of the most interesting buildings in the DPRK is the 50 lane bowling alley--the Pyongyang Gold Lane. The night we visited it
was completely full.