In the first part of this two part review I will comment on the building itself and the first floor (or more precisely the floor that we entered on as it may or may not be deemed the first floor of this ten story building). In part two of the review I will guide the reader through the resources available within the Study House.
One of the most striking buildings in down-town Pyongyang is the Grand People’s Study House built in traditional Korean style – a welcome relief to me from the more common Soviet style architecture found in the city. It is one of numerous structures built in 1982 in celebration of Kim Il-sung’s 70th birthday and was, reportedly, ‘started under the wise initiative of Dear Comrade Kim Jong-il and under his attentive guidance it was completed in a year and nine months”.
Situated at the rear (away from the river) of Kim Il-sung Square, it serves as a backdrop for speeches, military parades and other events held in the square. With its large pictures of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il (picture 1) it is reminiscent of Tian’anmen Gate and Mao’s image on the northern side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
The Grand People’s Study House is a 600 room library and centre of Juche studies for ‘the people’ enshrining and promoting Kim Il-sung’s educational philosophy of ‘study while working’, not to mention promoting a greater respect and love for the Kim family. Our guide informed us that by way the most popular topic of study and research here is Kim Il-sung’s Juche Idea (or self reliance philosophy). It is no coincidence that the Juche Tower is in direct line of sight across the river from the Study House.
On entering the Study House our first duty was to pay our respects to Kim Il-sung by bowing in front of his imposing white granite statue positioned in front of a mosaic picture of Mt. Paektu just inside the entrance of the building. I draw the readers special attention to this statue as it is the largest of many such indoor statues in North Korea which the visitor is allowed to photograph. As such, hopefully it gives the reader an inkling of many more (larger and much grander ones) which we were not permitted to photograph. The white colour of this and most of the other larges statue located in otherwise empty rooms invariably brought a slightly ghostly and eerie feeling to me.
Having completed our duty here we moved into a grand lobby area with retro-Soviet chandeliers and marble Romanesque columns.
On display here was a large collection of pictures depicting the activities of the current leader Kim Jong-un. The majority of the display recounted his tours of the country though pictures of him giving guidance in factories, in workplaces, to the army and to farmers. I found this (temporary) display very interesting and would like to have had more time here. It was particularly interesting to see how everyone seems to hang onto every word the Leader utters as he travels around. Of course, not to do so would have consequences.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to Pyongyang. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Grand People’s Study House (Part 2) – or to start the loop at the beginning go to – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other