As we headed out of Pyongyang bound for Mt Myohyang we passed one of the most recent additions to the Pyongyang landscape. A cemetery with around 600 headstones.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. Exactly as I was, doesn’t the size of a cemetery grow overtime and, bar some disaster, one wouldn’t expect them to pop up overnight.
Well there is a plausible, if a little odd, explanation. Of course, what might be deemed odd anywhere else can be seen as quite normal in North Korea and vice versa.
Between 1950 and 1953 North Korea lost hundreds of thousands of it citizens in the Korean War or what it refers to as the Fatherland Liberation War. Many other heroes of that war have died since and a small number are still alive. Burials took place all over the country but no national shire or memorial existed. As part of the 60th anniversary victory (North Korea claims victory) celebrations it was decided (by Kim Jong-un) that a memorial and cemetery be created here on the outskirts of Pyongyang.
Naturally a cemetery needs gravestones and bodies. So it was that from graves and cemeteries around the country approximately 600 “heroes of the republic” were exhumed and reburied here in the People’s Army Martyrs’ Cemetery. A further 60 places have been reserved for identified ‘heroes of the republic’ still alive.
The cemetery was officially opened by Marshall Kim Jong-un in July 2013 in the presence of thousands of veterans and their families (including many from China, which supported North Korea in the War) who had gathered in Pyongyang to mark the 60th anniversary of the War’s end and, of course, North Korea’s victory.
All the headstones are neatly laid out in rows and identical in terms of size and shape. Each one features an engraved picture of the deceased, their name and a little about them.
Being North Korea, a suitably massive memorial to those lost was required. A giant upturned stone rifle barrel with fixed bayonet was chosen.
This stands at the entrance to the cemetery with some smaller bronze and stone figures together with some text written by former leader Kim Il-sung and engraved onto a stone monument, proclaiming that “these martyrs and heroes will be remembered in times to come by future generations”.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to Pyongyang. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Mangyongdae Children’s Palace– or to start the loop at the beginning go to – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other