Having emerged from the depths of the Pyongyang Metro we were met with the spectacular sight of the Arch of Triumph.
Those familiar with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris will see where the inspiration for North Korea’s Arch of Triumph came from, though the latter incorporates both Western and Korean features.
Of course, this being North Korea, this version is bigger, at around eleven metres higher, than its Paris counterpart (but it is smaller than the Momumento al la Revolucion in Mexico). The fact that it is bigger than the Arc de Triomphe actually surprised me when looking at it and I suspect my eyes deceived me as in Pyongyang our main vantage point was slightly higher, looking down on Arch, thus making it appear smaller, whereas in Paris I generally looked up from the Champs-Élysées making the Arc de Triomphe look larger.
The Arch of Triumph was dedicated on the 14 April 1982, being the occasion of the 70th birthday of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung. It measures 60 metres high by 52.5 metres wide and supposedly contains 25,550 blocks of white granite, one for each day of the life, to his 70th birthday, of the Great Leader.
Needless to say it, but O Jun U the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, said it anyway in dedicating the Arch – “In the process of the heroic struggle to build the Arch of Triumph, our construction workers and all concerned fully demonstrated their wisdom, talents and burning loyalty every day”.
The Arch celebrates, and ‘conveys to prosperity the glorious revolutionary history and fighting exploits of the Great Leader’, and his triumph over the wicked, imperialist Japanese who Kim Il-sung (almost singlehandedly if you believe some) finally removed from Korea in 1945. It is built on the site where Kim Il-sung was allegedly greeted by thousands of cheering Koreans on his return to Pyongyang after ending the Japanese occupation of the country. No mention is made of the alternative, generally held, view that the Russian Army actually occupied Pyongyang in that year, defeated the Japanese, and installed Kim Il-sung, a virtual unknown (then a Russian army officer) at the time, as a puppet leader.
The dates recorded on the Arch, 1925 and 1945, refer to the year that Kim Il-sung, at the tender age of 13, left Pyongyang and began his crusade to free Korea from the Japanese and the year that he returned in triumph having rid the country of the Japanese.
Depicted in a relief high on the centre of one side of the Arch is holy Mount Paektu (picture 1 left) where Kim il-sung and other revolutionaries engaged in some of their fiercest battles with the Japanese. It was here that Kim Il-sung’s son and successor, Kim Jong-il, was born, according to official records. Russian sources hold that he was born in Russia.
The Korean text we saw on either side of the Arch are the revolutionary marching hymns, the ‘Song of Kim Il-sung’ and the ‘Song of Kim Jong-il’.
The four bronze sculptures at the base of the Arch depict 24 figures in heroic poses (one pictured here).
While the Arch is said to contain numerous rooms and balconies like its counterpart in Paris, it seems that they are not open to the public.
My main photo is a picture of the Arch of Triumph lit up at night. The lack of lights in the surrounding area makes it look all the more amazing at this time of day.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on The Rambling Wombat’s trip to Pyongyang, North Korea which I recommend you read in a particular order. I suggest you continue with my next entry –Welcome Home Kim Il-sung. If necessary, go to my Pyongyang introduction entry – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other – to start this loop at the beginning.