Kim Il Sung's mausoleum

Trip Start Oct 18, 2007
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Trip End Sep 09, 2010


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Where I stayed
Hyangsan Hotel

Flag of Korea Dem Peoples Rep  ,
Sunday, February 17, 2008

We started the day with a visit to Kim Il Sung's mausoleum: Kumsusan Memorial Palace. This was a big deal to our guides. It's not anything like visiting Mao Ze Dong's mausolem. There you go in, are ushered by the body and leave. It's a tourist attaction to most. Kumsusan is a place of worship and of grief for the Koreans.

On arrival you go through halls and halls on walking belts like the ones at airports but longer. And everyone stands still, you don't walk on them; it's almost absolutely quiet.
You have to leave your coat, camera etc at the wardrobe, go through metal detectors, over shoe brushes and through some sort of wind tunnel.

First we entered a room with the portrait of the leader. A little walkman speaker tells us about the day Kim Il Sung died in a very emational tone. It almost brought me to tears, but at the same time was too over the top to do so.

When arriving at the room where he rests we saw Koreans leaving in tears, still upset over losing their leader. It is expected of visitors to bow for Kim Il Sung's body three times in this room; once at the footend and once at each side. After leaving the room we went outside where we could see the building from the outside. Is is huge, as it was his home and the Parliament building when he was still alive and it has been expanded since he died.

Seeing this luxury, as well as other buildings we saw during our trip made us feel uneasy. I thought about the great famine, the people on the street that walk everywhere because public transport is lacking, the electricity shortage. All this could have been eased with the money that was poured into building ridiculous buildings for someone who is dead.

Afterwards we visited the Revolutionary Martyr's Cemetary, also impressive and it gives a nice view over Pyongyang. But only officers are burried here, the normal soldiers are burried somewhere else...so much for equality.

Our drive to Mt Myohyang was uneventful. There is hardly any traffic on the highway in North Korea. The first reason is of course the lack of cars, the second is that no one is allowed to travel freely. You need a permit to go anywhere so that leads to pretty much deserted roads. The land looked awfully bare and the water in the rivers was low. We hoped this doesn't mean another disaster year for the country.

We spend the evening doing karaoke until very late. There were only about 30 songs though so the ones we knew were repeated often. The evening ended in some drunken renditions of national anthems!

The next day we visited the International Friendship Exhibition. We were all tired and couldn't keep our faces straight while looking at thousands of -mostly ridiculous- gifts the Leader had received in his life and even after he died. We didn't see many gifts from Europe but there was one gift from the Netherlands Antilles...a book about lovesongs! yes he sure got some strange gifts. It ranged from books to tusks to lions to cutlery and paperweights. We were glad to leave the place.

On the way back to the Pyonyang we went by the Pohyon temple and and Austrich farm. The day seemed pretty much wasted. Although we did make some contact with Korean children once back in the city. We played football on a small city square with some young boys, they were amazingly good and showed us how it was done! The wouldn't take the candy we offered them though. I guess they were raised not to take candy from strangers!
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