Guide to Pyongyang, Capital of North Korea
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Guide to Pyongyang, Capital of North Korea

Guide to Pyongyang , capital of North Korea. North Korea is ruled by the Korean Workers Party by way of the Juche philosophy of Kim Il Sung. .

Pyongyang is the capital city of North Korea and the oldest city on the -korean-peninsula, with it's history dating back to 1122.

Unfortunately the ancient walled city suffered mass destruction during the three year civil war with-south-korea  from 1950 - 1953.

The city received a massive facelift with help from North Korea's neighbours the-peoples-republic-of-china  and -the-russian-federation during the 1960's, turning the city into an attractive modern city. 

The city stands on 3,194 sq km of land along the banks of the River Taedong.

It's name means ' flat land ' in Korean, owing to the large fertile plain of it's surrounding area.

It's 3,255,388 population are the most heavily monitored and policed people in the world, owing to the Stalinist dictatorship of the Korean Workers Party, the country's one and only political party.

The Korean Workers Party took power in 1949 under the dictatorship of Kim Il - Sung, otherwise known as the Eternal President, whose Juche philosophy has ruled over the country since 1949.

Food rations, housing, healthcare, education, and mandated dress code are all issued free by the government, whose premier today is the little seen 65 year old Pak Pong - Ju.

The Juche Philosophy stands for independence, self sufficiency and self reliance holding dear to a wholly communist ideaology, where everyone lives the same, dresses the same, eats the same and has the same education, morals and thoughts.

A doctor or lawyer in Pyongyang, as in all of north-korea , will have the same salary, the same type of home and the same type of clothing as a street cleaner. 


Pyongyang's Sunan Airport, which only takes international flights from China and Russia. 


Despite all this, Pyongyang is a vibrant and beautiful city, well worth a visit if you can stand the strict guided code laid out for all tourists that visit the city, which can only be undertaken by way of an accredited, governmental guide. 

Although Pyongyang can never be considered like other tourist destinations, due to it's lack of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and freedom to walk around unescorted, the city still has a wealth of attractions on offer.

Because of the flat terrain the city is located on, a wealth of parkland and green areas abound. which inturn are a haven for Korean flora, fauna and birdlife.


   Moronbong Hill.

The parks attract the local Pyongyang residents, who you will catch riding their bicycles and dressed in their mandatory grey jacket and trousers.

They will smile at you, but rarely offer to speak, becouse of their fear of the State police who are ever watching.

Word of warning, never take photographs of local people, they dont like it, and nor do the local police, who may well fine you for such inproprietry.

The streets of Pyongyang are wide and scrupulously clean, relatively free of traffic and shoppers, as only government officials have cars in North Korea and few locals can afford to shop in the western sense of the word.

There are a few department stores and government stores for the buying of basics such as food and shoes.

There are many museums depicting the people of Pyongyang's life and times during the Japanese occupation and Korean Civil war , along with art galleries of Socialist and wartime pictures. 

The city's two sports stadiums, believed to be the largest in the world, hold a myriad of organised sporting and cultural events, including singing and dancing spectaculars and martial arts demonstrations. 

There are nine hotels located within the city, all of which are modern architectural masterpieces,situated with commanding views over the city.

There are several beautiful and ornate Buddhist temples in Pyongyang, which as a tourist you are welcome to visit, but you will not see local people using them for worship as religion is banned in the communist state.

There are however many attractive buildings and statues worth a look, and the city's 22 km metro, 53 km tram system and 150 km trolleybus system makes them all within easy reach. 


Kim Il - Sung, founder of the Korean Workers Party and instigator of the Juche philosophy.


The Mansudae is a 20 metre high bronze statue of North Korea's Eternal Premier and founding Father of the Korean Workers Party, Kim Il - Sung.It is traditional when visiting this site to show respect by laying flowers at the base of the statue, which can be brought on site for a few Won. ( Korean currency)


The impressive Juche Tower is the city's finest landmark, a 170 metre high obelisk completed in 1982 which was built in dedication of the Juche philosophy, which stands overlooking the banks of the mighty River Taedong, which boasts an eternal flame shining brightly at it's top.


Pyongyang's Juche Tower.


This 60 metre high arch is the world's largest triumphal arch, built in 1982 of white granite, it was built to commemorate the North Korean's resistance to the Japanese occupation of 1925 - is situated in Triumph Square at the bottom of Moronbang Hill, a large forested,recreational park with outdoor theatres and art galleries.


      Pyongyang's Arch of Triumph.


This beautiful concrete, symbolic statue, built in 2002, depicts two Korean women in national costume, not mandatory dress, holding aloft a map of a unified Korea.

Aptly positioned along the Tongil Expressway which takes you through to South Korea via the DMZ ( De - militarised zone ). 



THE PYONGYANG METRO.                                                                                              

Not many countries can boast a metro system as a tourist attraction, but Pyongyang's 22 km long, 2 line metro system has to be seen to be believed.

The tiled floors are so clean they shine like glass, and the lights hanging from the vaulted ceilings, of which is the world's deepest metro system at 110 metres, are crystal and brass chandeliers.

The walls are adorned with fine hand painted murals depicting socialist and realist themes.

There is no eating, drinking or smoking on the Pyongyang Metro, and to do so can result in heavy fines.




The title above is a complete misnomer in relation to Pyongyang as there are few restaurants and cafes in the city.

If you are visiting, it is most likely that you would eat entirely in your hotel sampling the Korean basics of noodles, eggs, chicken and vegetables.

The North Koreans are great lovers of soup, any type of soup, probably due to its ease of cooking and the fact that it can be made from just about anything, but soup will be served at most meals, even breakfast, along with the other great Korean staple,cabbage.

Now, I know what you are all thinking at this point.Is it true that they eat dogs in  north-korea ?

Well yes it is, but it is not as callous as it first seems.

The North Koreans do not keep dogs as pets, they could not afford to, the only people to use dogs are farmers and security businesses.

North Korea also has a massive food production problem owing to the country's mountainous terrain and it's flatter regions suffering extensive flooding, add that to the country's closed political ideology of maintaining complete self sufficiency, making it rare that the government would ask other nations for help in order to feed it's people,that coupled with the fact that malnutrition is the biggest single killer in North Korea, I'm afraid to say that yes, dog is most definately eaten if they have the chance to cook one.

If you are of an adventurous nature, and would like to sample dog if you are ever in Pyongyang, may I suggest the Dangogo Gukjib on Tongil Street, one of Pyongyang's few restaurants,which just so happens to have Gaegogi ( roast dog ) and Bosintang ( dog soup / stew ) on its menu. 


  Gaegogi, Korean dog stew.


The climate of Pyongyang is generally hot and humid during the Summer months and cold and snowy in Wintertime.

The best time to travel is Spring, when the cherry blossom is abundant and the weather is warm and balmy, when the light offshore winds of Korea Bay blow the scented flowers of Jasmine bushes,into a warm and perfumed welcome for all that visit this safe, serene and tranquil city. 

For information about Pyongyang. 





                                                                                                       © D.B.Bellamy.March.2010.

                                                                                             All images courtesy of wikimedia commons.

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Comments (14)
Ranked #17 in Asia

Great review, I've heard the subway system here is something to see.

Great info

Ranked #1 in Asia

Hi Guys, yes it's one very interesting place.

You convinced me; I love the hospitality of coutries in Asia and according your article, they seem to smile always. Beautiful pictures of some highlights of this place.


Hi. I'm from South Korea. Great information, though. You can't, however, go there as long as you're not some journalists or diplomats. This country is completely different from any other asian countries. They didn't open their gate yet...still hostile, I mean.

Don't regard that country as a place where you can travel freely as you want and you can experience some unique cultures.

It's impossible at the moment. I sincerely hope that we unite someday like germany.

Ranked #1 in Asia

Thanks for your info Hoya, We in the west, all sincerly hope that reunification will be possible some day, too.

Ranked #26 in Asia

"Word of warning, never take photographs of local people, they dont like it, and nor do the local police, who may well fine you for such inproprietry." Thanks for that valuable bit of info. I tend to shoot "people" so this is a good warning.

Ranked #1 in Asia

Yes it's good to know these little tips Shastri, as everywhere has it's cultural do's and dont's.

Looks like a grand place to visit

The thing I find fascinating about the city is one of their biggest screw-ups. The amazing triangular shaped 105 story hotel that was condemned before it was ever occupied! - still a pretty amazing site.

Ranked #1 in Asia

I don't know that one Tom. I know they have quite a few hotels, considering very few are allowed to visit the place, I find that facinating. It sure would be nice if they opened the border - hard to believe there's still places like that in our world.

Ranked #1 in Asia

Ahh the 105 building, I know it, is'nt it a beauty? I did'nt realise it was built as a hotel, well it was'nt after all !

Great discussion, DeeBee.