North Korean monuments, part 1

August 8, 2012 by Joshua
in NorthKorea

North Korea likes to do things big and nationalistic. Here are some images of their bigger monuments.

Ryugyong Hotel

Above is the (in)famous Ryugyong non-Hotel, started in 1987 for completion in 1989 but never finished. When the Soviet Union collapsed, North Korea had insufficient resources to finish the building, which was costing 2% of the country’s GDP at the time.

I’ve read that using too-low-quality concrete and crooked elevator shafts make the building not only impossible to complete, but a huge metaphor for the country’s inability to enter the modern world. In any case, it remains unused today. What look like lights in this picture are just reflections from our bus window.

Pyongyang's Arch of Triumph

North Korea’s triumphal arch, built to commemorate not their liberation from Japanese occupation, but Kim Il Sung’s role in that liberation, as I understand it.

They built it slightly larger than Paris’s triumphal arch, though it lacks a certain world-class charm that the one in Paris has. We went near it, but didn’t get to enter it or even stand at its base.

Chollima Statue

The statue of Chollima, a Korean mythical horse that could stride 1,000 li (about a mile, I think) each step, though it often has wings too. The government used Chollima to represent their attempt at rapid economic development in their version of the Great Leap Forward, which didn’t work in North Korea any better than in China.

I always thought of Chollima as a kids character so I like the horse.

Another view of Chollima

Another view of Chollima because I liked him or her so much.

Juche tower close up

Here is a close-up view of the torch at the top of the Juche Tower, which gave great views of the rest of the city. Juche is the name of their state religion/philosophy, which doesn’t make any sense except to justify whatever the government want to justify.

Just like they made their triumphal arch a wee bit larger than the one in Paris, this tower is about a meter taller than the Washington Monument.

Monument to the Founding of the Korean Workers' Party

The Monument to the Founding of the Korean Workers’ Party, representing workers, farmers, and writers or cultural people, I think. Right out of Stalin’s style guide.

I met a cool and beautiful Italian woman, part of a classical singing group, who invited us to see one of their performances in Pyongyang that night. Despite the personal invitation and our guide’s attempts to find the show and enable us attending, we couldn’t make it. The idea of showing up at the door without tickets and talking our way in didn’t get very far, despite my reassurance of years of success with such activities in New York City clubs, which I assure here were more exclusive.

Also, with no internet or publication like Time Out listing events, just finding out where the performance would be or when was very difficult.

Monument to the Founding of the Korean Workers' Party

Another view of the Monument to the Founding of the Korean Workers’ Party

Pyongyang subway chandelier

A Pyongyang subway chandelier, with a mosaic in the background.

My business takes me to a lot of subways, and the Pyongyang stations are among the most impressive. They are very deep, probably to serve a dual purpose as bomb shelters. The trains are old though. I posted a couple pictures of subway car interiors with regular North Koreans commuting.

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