Set in a sprawling concrete park, on the outskirts of the city, are six buildings detailing the ‘three revolutions’ brought about by Kim Il-sung in postwar Korea – the Great Leader’s ideological, technical and cultural revolutions.
These revolutions are covered in six buildings which detail North Korea’s advances in electronics, heavy industry, light industry, agriculture, technology and class education (I am still not so sure what that is).
The whole place was deserted and indeed I am tempted to conclude that many of the buildings were likewise empty. We got to see inside the electronics cum planetarium building and examine an assortment of vehicles produced in North Korea, displayed in the open air about half way down the park.
Prior to entering the electronics building our special Exhibition guide explained what was in each of the other buildings – all of course the brainchild of Kim Il-sung. Requests by various members of the group to visit other buildings were turned down due to lack of time.
The most interesting (not necessarily because of its contents but rather its shape) building in the park is the planetarium, a spherical building in the likeness of Saturn, with a ring. This was to be the primary attraction of our visit. To get there we had to go through the electronics hall, through which were shuffled at high speed.
On our exit I ventured into the centre of the cavernous, cold and dimly lit main hall (unescorted – yes, how naughty of me!). What I found was an array of glass cases displaying the most boring assortment of 1960s-80s ‘junk’ that I have seen anywhere. I now realised the reason for our guide’s earlier haste.
Back to the planetarium, which I have to say was one of the most peculiar experiences of my life.
Our education began with a guided tour of a reasonable display of North Korea’s space program which included models of the rockets which, we were told, delivered into space the four North Korean satellites currently orbiting the earth.
Other non North Korean sources suggest that three rockets fell into the sea just after takeoff while a fourth (in late 2012) managed to get a satellite into orbit which ‘seemed to be tumbling and was probably out of control’ and, as such, there are no North Korean satellites orbiting anything. Western sources claim that all the launches were veiled ballistic missile tests.
It would appear that somebody is telling porkies!
Having been put right on the rockets and satellites, we were asked to sit down for an astronomy presentation. Having done so, the planetarium was plunged into darkness while stars and planets were projected onto the inside of the dome. The stars and planets moved before our eyes while we listened to a high pitched commentary more suited to an audience of three year olds. The present audience tried hard to conceal its laughter but couldn’t, especially when the guide tried following stars around the sky with a red laser pointer. To have followed the guides pointer (as we were requested to do) at the speed he was moving it we would have fallen of our chairs and been sick within a minute. For this point on we did find it hard to remain on our chairs as the whole group became convulsed in laughter.
The pièce de résistance would have been to see one thousand angelic cranes descend from the heavens as they did on the death of the Great Leader in 1994 but that little pleasure was denied us. You can read more about the cranes in my separate review – Cranes bound for heaven?
Having been enlightened and re-educated in the planetarium we visited a display of vehicles produced in North Korea.
Needless to say, given my love for trains, I was most attracted to the two trains on display but also on display was a tractor, bulldozer, mechanical digger, army truck and a bus. While certainly not as amusing or enlightening as the planetarium this display was nonetheless interesting and for the only time on our trip I was the last person back on the bus.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to Pyongyang. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Some Revolutionary Opera? – or to start the loop at the beginning go to – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other