Books in the Library!

In part one of my review I provided a broad overview of the Study House/ library. In this review I will cover the library’s resources available to the people.

The Grand People’s Study House is said to contain 30 million volumes and other articles including the 10,800 works of Kim Il-sung and, perhaps more famously among tourists, it does contain an encyclopaedia on chickens which forms part of the library’s English Language collection. While Kim Il-sung’s works include a substantial amount of guidance notes based on this visits to factories, farms, schools, etc they also include an opera, a number of songs, poetry, text books, histories and of course his teachings, most importantly his writings on his Juche Idea (his philosophy of self reliance based on independence and his own peculiar brand of socialism).

For a building that is supposed to contains 30 million books we saw very few though we were assured by our guides that the books are primarily in stacks not directly accessible to the public. To get a book you must locate it in the catalogues (partly card/partly computerised) and ask the librarians to bring it to you. It will arrive via a rather cute little conveyor belt system.

From the library’s ‘substantial’ foreign language collection we sighted four items including that famous encyclopaedia on chickens.


Access to foreign language books and, some say, Korean books older than 15 years, is carefully controlled and not available to all “the people”. I guess the Dear Leader didn’t want North Korea over-run by chickens.

Given the size of the building (or being cynical, because there was nothing in them) we did not have time to enter but a few of the rooms in the Study House. Should you have more time on your visit you might want to see if your guide can get access for you to room 1004 where you will find the “Works of Kim Il-Sung and books on his greatness” or room 2012 an “Area of Education through Revolutionary Materials”. Before you leave the Study House, while in the bookshop/café, don’t forget to pick up your copy of Kim Jong-un’s 2012 work “Let us accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche, holding Kim Jong-il in high esteem as the Eternal General Secretary of our Party”. By all accounts a riveting read!

While we were unable to visit rooms 1004 and 2012 we did get to see reading rooms lecture rooms; internet rooms (North Korean internet only available); revolutionary artwork adorning the corridors; language laboratories where we were able to give ‘on the spot guidance’, just like the Leaders, to students practising their English; music appreciation rooms where western music, including Madonna’s True Blue album, was available though we got to hear the Beetles (you got to dig the boom boxes!); and television viewing rooms where western material was not available for viewing.

As an observant person you will have noticed the pictures of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il hanging at the front of every room pictured and how desks are aligned such that visitors merely need to look up for the ‘heavenly guidance’ of Leaders past, though eternal. Speaking of things heavenly, I was rather surprised to hear that US evangelist Billy Graham once visited the Study House. I doubt if he would have found much literature here to his liking.

For a building that has, according to our guide, around 12,000 visitors per day it was remarkably empty during our visit. Perhaps they were all in rooms 1004 and 2012.

On completing this part of the tour we were guided into the bookshop/café on one of the upper floors. To be honest there was not a lot of interest here and we quickly made out way out onto the balcony which overlooks Kim Il-sung Square and which generally affords wonderful views across the city. My last picture in Part One of this review is the view down into Kim Il-sung Square with the Juche Tower in the background just across the river.

This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to Pyongyang.  I suggest you continue with my next entry – Kim Il-sung Square – or to start the loop at the beginning go to –  Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other


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