Fun things to do in North Korea

  • Things to Do
    by smirnofforiginal
  • Things to Do
    by smirnofforiginal
  • Things to Do
    by smirnofforiginal

Most Viewed Things to Do in North Korea

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    Kaesong

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    Kaesong lies right in the south of the country, just a few miles from Panmunjom and the demilitarised zone. We came here down the empty 4-lane Reunification Highway from Pyongyang and stayed overnight in the old part of the city that survived the bombings of the Korean War because of its importance and historical value to the country. It was here that the Koryo Dynasty made Kaesong there capital and relics from this era still survive. When Korea was partitioned at the 38th parallel after World War Two, Kaesong was on the southern side of the line (within the Republic of Korea). Thus Kaesong is (depending on perspective) either the only occupied South Korean City at the end of the 'Korean Police Action', or the only city liberated by the North Korean People's Army in the 'Great Fatherland Liberation War'.

    The main photo is probably one of the most famous street scenes in North Korea and one that I remember seeing on the net a few years ago that got me wanting to visit the country (who needs tour agency's!). This 4-lane street, known as Tongil Street, runs from the Kim Il Sung statue down the hill and then up again until it meets the Reunification Highway.

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    Myohyang-sanmaek - Pohyon Temple

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    The Pohyon Temple was founded in the Sangwon Valley, not far from the International Friendship Exhibition, in 1042 during the Koryo period. It is named after the Buddhist saint Pohyon who was in charge of the “morals of Buddha.” Originally it had 24 buildings and pagodas and was a major centre for propagating Buddhism in this area of Korea.

    The temple complex was almost completely destroyed by bombings during the Korean War. Several of the main structures have been rebuilt, including a new Archive Hall to house the third printing of the Buddhist scriptures to have been printed between 1236 and 1251 AD on 80,000 wood blocks (now in the Haeinsa Temple near Daegu in South Korea.)

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    Myohyang-san - International Friendship Exhibition

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    The International Friendship Exhibition are two huge partly underground palaces filled with over 100,000 gifts from over 150 countries to both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. We visited the larger of the two first, that was opened in 1978, which had gifts presented to Kim Il Sung. We first had to hand in our cameras and were then told to put on dust covers over our shoes. This is due to the fact that marble is everywhere - on the floors, walls, balconies and staircases. We were led into many rooms were the gifts were very impressive. Some of the stand out ones include a limousine sent to him by Josef Stalin and an armoured train carriage presented to him by Mao Zedong. Most of the gifts are vases, glassware, pictures etc which are fairly boring but some really stand out like a stuffed crocodile holding a wooden plate and cups from the Nicaraguan Sandinist National Liberation Front. Most of the gifts come from extreme left-wing African countries or Communist parties based in the west. Some halls feature large photo's of Kim Il Sung meeting foreign heads of state.

    After visiting just some of the 120 rooms (otherwise we would be there for a lifetime), we were led into a room where two large groups of North Koreans were. All the women were sitting down whilst the men were standing in neat rows. We went in before them, into a room with a grinning life-sized waxwork of the Great Leader stood. Our guide bowed his head but we just looked on. He's not very tall but still manages to look down on people as he's standing on raised ground.

    After visiting the first palace, we were led down the road to a small building that contains all the gifts presented to Kim Jong Il. Gifts here include those from Hyundai, CNN, a good luck note from Jimmy Carter and a basketball from Madeleine Albright. Some gifts come in the form of old electrical items such as TV's, record players and other stereo equipment as Kim Jong Il is a big 'techy' fan.

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    Mangyongdae - Kim Il Sung's birthplace

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    Mangyongdae is a suburb about 12km south-west of Pyongyang and is famous for being the place where Kim Il Sung was born on April 15th 1912 in a simply straw thatched house. The jury's out whether or not he was actually born here at all and our guides really emphasised on his humble origins. When I was in China, I visited Mae Zedong's birthplace and that house is very similar. Mangyongdae also has a Kim Il Sung theme park but we didn't visit it.

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    Spyship USS Pueblo

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    This was originally not on our tour itinerary and having read about it on the new, I asked if we could visit it. I was told that it wasn't possible as some building works were being carried out on some steps nearby. I thought this was a pretty poor excuse and felt a bit hard done by. The following day, one of guides mentioned that it would actually be possible for us to visit the Pueblo and when we arrived, some steps did look like they had been worked on and were actually cordoned off. I thanked the guide for his work in getting us the chance to visit.

    Basically the boat is here because it entered into North Korean waters in 1968 and was captured by them and her crew (of which were numbered 83) were kept imprisoned for nearly a year until Major General Gilbert H Woodward signed an apology on behalf of the American government. The crew were then released over the Bridge of no Return into South Korea at the DMZ. As part of the deal, the North Koreans also got to keep the boat as a trophy even though the Americans wanted it back. We got to see the whole boat, which still includes all of the spy equipment, and were treated to a 15 minute long film about the boats capture.

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    Arch of Triumph

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    The Arch of Triumph was built to commemorate the Korean resistance to Japan from 1925 to 1945 and the triumphal return home of Kim Il Sung after hiding in exile during the 2nd World War. It was unveiled in April 1982 to mark his 70th birthday and was built out of 25,500 blocks of finely-dressed white granite - one for each day of his life up until that point. The structure is modelled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and was deliberately built to be slightly larger. It is the world's tallest triumphal arch, standing 60 metres high and 50 metres wide over a 4 lane road that we could stand in the middle without fear of getting run-over. Inscribed on the Arch is the "Song of General Kim Il-sung", a revolutionary hymn, 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.

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    Old Pyongyang

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    There are only a handful of old pre-Korean war structures dotted around the city as it was destroyed by the Americans during the war. Potong Gate stands near the River Potong, a tributary of the Taesong River. It was built in the mid-6th century when the walls of the old city were built and was later rebuilt in 1473.

    The Taedong Gate was the eastern gate of the inner fort of the old walled city. It was erected in the mid-6th century and rebuilt in 1635. The Ryongyang Pavilion stands near the gate and was built in 1111 and later rebuilt in 1670. Between the two is the Pyongyang Bell which used to hang from Taedong Gate but it cracked during a fire in 1714.

    Nam Gate is located on Mt Taesong near the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery. It was built before Koguryo transferred its capital to Pyongyang in 427 A.D. and was restored in 1978.

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    Three Charters for National Reunification Monument

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    This monument stretches over the Reunification Highway that goes south from Pyongyang to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). It was erected in 2001 and measures 30m in height and 51.5m wide. It depicts two women in traditional Korean costumes holding a map of a unified Korea.

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    Grand People's Study House

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    This huge building dominates the western side of Kim Il Sung square and you good an excellent view of it after you've been shown around from a balcony that overlooks it. The North Korean education system (Juche Education, if you like) is based on the principle of "study while working". The building was built as part of the extensive construction in Pyongyang in honour of President Kim il Sung's 70th birthday, in 1982. The architecture is traditional Korean with 34 saddle roofs topped with 750,000 green tiles whilst the inside features imposing marble floors and balconies and wonderful lights. The Study House has some 30,000,000 million volumes within it and we were shown around various rooms including a study hall, with the two Kim's looking down on everyone, that featured an old library card system, a large room full of PC's (that, obviously, weren't connected to the internet), a music room full of old style portable stereo units (1980's style "wog box" or "ghetto blasters"). We were treated to listen to some western music such as The Beatles and, for some reason, Mariah Carey! The next room had some people watching videos on portable TV's that played the videos.

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    Pyongyang Metro

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    This was one of the main things I was looking forward to in Pyongyang - a ride on the city's metro. Firstly, we entered down some steps off a street into Yonggwang station which is located just to the north of the main overland railway station. We hung around by some ticket barriers waiting for our guides to get coin tokens which cost 5 won each (about 4 US cents). We were shown an electrically operated map on the wall which showed us 2 lines - the north-south Chollima line (named after a mythical flying horse, the Korean Pegasus) and east-west Hyoksin (Renovation) line. When you pressed a certain button at the button of the map, the relevant station would light up to tell you its location - futuristic stuff! There are 17 known stations altogether, although it is believed that more lines and secret stations exist for military and government officials. Stations have names like Paradise (Rakwon), Triumph (Jonsung), Renovation (Hyoksin) and Reunification (Tongli) which beat our boring station names like Baker Street and Paddington on the London Underground! The whole metro system is entirely underground and is the world's deepest with many stations being more than 100 metres below the surface. We were lead down a step, long escalator with no advertising on the walls unlike any other metro system I've been on and reached the platforms which features lovely wall murals and sculptures. The best thing at this particular station are the enormous chandeliers which are coloured pink, green and yellow. A train came in to the station whilst we were taking everything in and taking photo's and a whole crowd of well dressed people got off and walked past us without taking much notice of us in jeans, t-shirts and shorts! It is said that all of this is staged for each tourist visit and it did have a Trueman Showesque about it. Make the most of this as it'll be your only time that you get to mix with 'everyday' North Koreans. Yonggwang station features columns that are shaped like Olympic torches with arches sprouting out of the top, which look like flames. After spending about 10-15 minutes on the concourse, we got on a train which had the portraits of the Kim's looking down on you and then got off at the next station. I've added a short video taken by our tour cameraman. More excellent information can be found by visiting the website below.

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    Pyongyang Circus

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    One evening we went to the Pyongyang Circus which is located in the western suburbs on Kwangbok Street. Now, it's been many, many years since I last went to a circus and this one didn't disappoint. The acts that we saw including trapeze artists, a lady balancing a long pole with something on top in her mouth whilst climbing up a rope, a young guy balancing on a series of cylindrical tubes, a young girl doing some more balancing of some form or other, an obligatory strongman and North Korea's answer to a clown. One of the acts (which I didn't really enjoy) featured a black bear standing on its hind legs and jumping over small dogs. It was a bit cruel but you can see why it was entertaining but not really my cup-of-tea. The circus trip wasn't part of our itinerary and we had to fork out €20 (20 Euros) for it.

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    Kumsusan Memorial Palace

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    First occupied in 1976, the 4-story Kumsusan was originally the Kumsusan Assembly Hall, and was Kim Il Sung's official residence. One year after Kim's death, in 1994, the hall's windows had been bricked over and the giant building became a giant mausoleum, housing Kim's embalmed body in a glass coffin awaiting the bows and lamentations of DPRK citizens. Foreigners are sometimes invited to visit but our tour party wasn't. Instead, our guide had to ask permission of a policeman for us to stop and take photos of the building from a road running from it.

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    Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    The Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery is located on Mt Taesong, which lies to the northeast of Pyongyang and, again, is probably going to be on everyone's itinerary. It contains many busts of revolutionary figures which even include Kim Il Sung's mother, Kang Pan-sok. The cemetery was inaugurated in 1975 and enlarged in 1985. Some nice views of the city can be seen from it.

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    Pyongyang - May Day Stadium

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    The May Day Stadium is located on the Rungra island in the Taedong River. It was completed on May 1st 1989, hence its name and can accommodate some 150,000 people making it the largest stadium by capacity in the world. Its scalloped roof features 16 arches arranged in a ring, and it is said to resemble a parachute or a magnolia blossom. While the stadium is used for sporting events, it is more famous as the site of massive parades and shows celebrating Kim Il-sung and the Korean nation. In May of 2002 it was the site of the colossal and meticulously choreographed "Arirang" gymnastic and artistic performance in honour of Kim Jong-il's 60th birthday. The extravaganza involved some 100,000 participants — double the number of spectators.

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    Monument to the Foundation of the Workers' Party

    by Willettsworld Written Sep 10, 2008

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    This monument is located directly in the line of sight of the large bronze statue of President Kim il Sung on Munsu Hill in Pyongyang. Erected for the golden jubilee (50 years) of the KWP founding by Kim il Sung in October 1996, the tower measures 50 metres (around 160 feet) in height and its three components are a hammer, sickle and writing brush which represent the worker, the peasant and the intellectual. The writing brush is Korea's addition to the traditional Communist symbols of the hammer and sickle. Surrounding the tower structure is a kind of stone belt, which has a diameter of 50 meters. It represents a circle of Korean unity. The granite platform for the monument measures 70 metres (around 230 feet) which marks the 70th Anniversary of the DIU (Down with Imperialism Union), a precursor to the KWP, founded in 1926.

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