Before returning to Pyongyang we visited the Koryo Museum in Kaesong. This museum houses many relics from the Koryo period. At that time Kaesong was the capital of Korea (the whole peninsula).
After leaving the DMZ our guides took us to Kaesong to have lunch. On our way their our guide explained how the culture of side dishes worked in the DPRK.
If you’ve ever eaten in a restaurant in South Korea you’ll know they fill your table with side dishes before you’ve even ordered. In North Korea the number of dishes shows how important of a guest you are.
On our second day in North Korea we travelled to Panmunjom, the heart of the Demilitarised Zone. This would be the second time that I’d been here, the last time being from the South.
Road to Panmunjom
We had to set off early to get to Panmunjom. One of the tunnels on the road down were under repair meaning we would have to take a detour.
In North Korea they have a saying: Pyongyang isn’t a city with many parks. It is a city inside a big park. So after a day of looking at monuments and statues we went to Kaeson Youth Park.
Kaeson Youth Park is a popular amusement park in Pyongyang. It has several rides in good condition, including a roller coaster. Several of the locals filled the place and were clearly having a good time.
The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum is a memoir of the Korean War. It houses various war relics, captured UN vehicles and the USS Pueblo. It is an impressive museum that unfortunately contains a fair amount local propaganda.
We met our museum guide at the entrance to the museum: a young woman dressed in military garb. I’m not sure if this was for show or if she actually held rank, but I think she was military.
My favourite part of the our Pyongyang tour has to be the Grand People’s Study House. This impressive building houses a library of books, computer archives and music. It is open to all North Koreans for study, as the state encourages constant improvement throughout their lives.
When you first go into the Grand People’s Study House you enter a large marble hall.
The Tower of the Juche Idea, a.k.a the Juche Tower, sits on the opposite side of Taedong river to the Kim Il-Sung Square. The tower is named after the ideology of Juche – a philosophy created by Kim Il-Sung. This is North Korea’s flavour of communism, mixed with self-sufficiency, nationalism and traditionalism.
We were first shown the outside of the tower where we could wander down to the bank of the river.
The Monument to the Party Founding is perhaps the most well-known monument in the DPRK. Everyone who knows anything about the DPRK has seen a picture of this monument.
The monument, as its name indicates, commemorates the founding of the Korean Worker’s Party (or KWP). It consists of three giant hands holding the symbols of each member of society: writing brush, sickle and hammer. These represent intellectuals, farmers and workers.
Arch of Triumph (Korean Style)
When we came out of the subway we were right next to Pyongyang’s own Arch of Triumph. Korea built it to commemorate Korea’s resistance to Japan between 1925 and 1945.
They modelled it after Paris’ own Arch of Triumph and everyone knows that this one is bigger. Yet not everyone knows that this is only the second biggest in the world.
Our Korean tour guides took us to ride the Pyongyang Metro through the city. We were lucky enough to be able to stop at four stations, something which very few tourists have done before.
We went into the Metro at Puhung station. We skipped the queue and went straight through to the escalator. This escalator felt longer than the one in Angel station in London – the only other long escalator I’ve ever been on.