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. A white marble statue of Kim Il-Sung seated in a chair watches the entrance from the other side of the room. Either side of the hallway huge escalators take you up into the study house proper.
Our guide introduced us to the man who would show us around the Study House. He had grey hair and seemed so excited to show off the place. He led us up one of the escalators and then took us up some more stairs to the first room he wanted to show us: a large study hall.
The study hall was a large room with several solo desks facing towards the front. It could have doubled as a classroom. A few people were busy studying at some of the desks. On the side we entered was a collection of books in many languages which you could borrow to read and/or study from. Apart from ourselves and our energetic guide the hall was as quiet as you would expect.
He then led us to the next room he wanted to show us. This was one of the computer rooms. The computers filling this room had operating systems that looked like Windows 3.1. Unlike the study hall, every machine was occupied. Our guide told us about the search engine that they had on these computers. He told us, “You can search for anything on them and it will show you everything they have about it.” He then “asked” one of the students for his computer so he could show us. The student was visibly frustrated as he asked each of us where we were from an entered our countries into the search engine. Each time he would point out the number of results for each country. After a few minutes of this he gave the computer back to the student and we went on to one of the music rooms.
Like the other rooms there were several desks laid out, this time with CD players on each one. Our guide rushed over to the side of the room where he pulled one of the many CDs out. He said, “now I will play my favourite song!” It turned out to be a Beatles album and the song he put on was “Hey Jude”.
This man is North Korean and his favourite band is one of my favourite bands. From the city where most of my family was born. This just seemed crazy to me. No matter how far you travel you will always find some connection to home. This was one I was not expecting.
Although the fact that he likes one of the most famous bands ever probably shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise looking back on it.
After listening to a couple more songs he took us out to the balcony. From here we got a great view of Kim Il-Sung Square.
After taking advantage of the photo op we headed back to our bus. We took the exit through the gift shop, of course.