If you have read some of my Panmunjom entries you will be aware that the Korean War, which started in 1950, continues to this day. However, hostilities, barring a number of minor and not so minor infractions, came to an end in 1953 with the signing of a military Armistice Agreement outside Panmunjom, a small village, in what is now the Demilitarised Zone, around the border with South Korea.
In the three years of hostilities upwards of three million people, mainly Koreans (North and South) lost their lives. This and relentless US bombings left North Korea in ruins. A major physical and mental rebuild was required.
Kim Il-sung was keen that this redevelopment occur as quickly as possible and in 1956, shortly before the commencement of the 1957-61 five-year plan, first urged his people to ‘Charge at the speed of Chollima.’
Chollima, literally ‘thousand li (400kms per day) horse’ is a mythical winged horse originating from the Chinese classics.
The people naturally reacted and the Korean Central News Agency subsequently reported how:
‘the working class and people worked hard in the spirit of taking ten, nay, one hundred steps while others taking (sic) one step and wrought epoch-making miracles in the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance.’
A Chollima movement was established in 1956 to promote a lightening speed State planned development in what was to be North Korea’s version of neighbouring China’s Great Leap Forward and the Soviet Union’s Stakhanovite movement. Chollima became the symbol of the country’s rapid post-war reconstruction efforts during the 1950s.
Despite early successes, contributing to North Koreans enjoying a higher quality of life than their Southern counterparts, the Chollima drive somewhat fizzled out in the 1960s.
To exhort the people into action several Chollima statues, typically built by the Mansudae Art Studio, were erected. The one depicted in this entry, on Mansu Hill, was completed in 1961, on the occasion of the 49th birthday of Kim Il-sung. It stands around 46 metres high and 16 metres long.
Notwithstanding the slowdown in the 1960s, to-day the Chollima statue, we were told, again symbolises the heroism and constant fighting spirit of the Korean people and their ability to innovate and move at the speed of the Chollima – just as the Greater Leader had asked that they do back in 1956.
Supposedly unrideable by mere mortals, Chollima presents no challenge to the Northern Korean worker and peasant as mounted on this Chollima are a worker and a young peasant woman. The worker is rushing ahead on the Chollima, holding high the “Red Letter” of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and represents the working class of Korea. The peasant woman holding a large sheaf of rice in her arms symbolises North Korea’s fast advancing peasantry.
The statue and the whole Chollima movement is a rare examples of how the North Korean state has incorporated traditional Korean myths into its cult. Typically, emulation of the Great Leader and his successors is sufficient.
The DPRK’s football (soccer) team is informally referred to as Chollima and, not surprisingly, one of the two lines on the Pyongyang Metro is the Chollima Line.
On both my trips we ‘officially’ viewed the Chollima statue from the nearby Mansudae Grand Monument though decent, if slightly distant, views of it can also be had from the top of the Arch of Triumph – the Pyongyang version of the Arch that is!
Over the years the Chollima statue has been portrayed on North Korea’s postage stamps numerous times. Depicted here are a couple of instances on stamps I acquired while in the DPRK.
Chollima no longer fast enough for Kim Jong-un.
In 2017 Chollima speed was supplemented with Mallima speed when the current leader, Kim Jong-un, sought to coax his kinsmen to work even harder to achieve the country’s economic goals. While Chollima moved at 400km per day Mallima, another imaginary horse, could reach, and maintain over a long distance, a speed of almost 4,000 kms per day.
In March 2017 the Rodong Sinmun newspaper advised its readership that:
‘To be riders and front-runners in the Mallima movement is the bounden duty and noble obligation of our generations who were born in the motherland of Juche and grew up learning the epic of the Chollima age.’
NKPro, an external media organisation specialising in North Korea, published this picture of a Pyongyang mural, seen in July 2018. It asks of the viewer “Are you riding at Mallima Speed, comrade?”
I don’t recall seeing the mural myself.
‘Enthusiastic, selfless devotion to Marshel Kim Jong Un’ coupled with Mallima speed has already resulted in a whole new street of around 24 skyscrapers and other buildings, Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang, being completed two days ahead of schedule, on 13 April 2017, in less than a year. More on our walk along Ryomyong Street and Mirae Scientists Street (completed in 2015/16) in a separate entry.
While I am not aware of the existence of any Mallima statues a song has been written extolling the virtues of Mallima – ‘We are Mallima Riders’:
The Workers’ Party spreads out the era of Mallima
Let’s blaze like a gust of wind towards new victories
Believing in one’s strength, overcoming all difficulties
We are Mallima Riders
Mallima – the spirit of Korea
Mallima – the winds of Juche
Looking at the greatest country ahead
Vigorously, vigorously run
Opening the shortcut towards happiness
With innovation and increased production, let’s make new miracles
The wing of science and technology spreads out and flies
Let’s quickly go to an ideal place
Storming and advancing, flashing and advancing
There is the victory of socialism in this march!
Pulling a hundred years worth of time running towards the future
We will go ahead of the whole world
I encourage you to listen to this catchy little number as performed by the all female Moranbong Band at the link below:
By way of note, the Moranbong Band was established by, and its members handpicked by, Kim Jong-un. It certainly presents a welcome alternative to the more staid military bands the general populace would have been used to. Rather like his grandfather, who set up and personally selected the female Pyongyang traffic police, the current leader has an eye for beautiful ladies in uniform.
Tim Stanley of The Telegraph (UK) summed the band up as follows in 2013:
‘The Moranbong girls are not what you’d expect from an unfashionably totalitarian regime where grey is the new grey. Their skirts are short, the hair is trendy, the music danceable. It could just about pass as a Eurovision entry from Azerbaijan’.
Personally, I think the band is great great though I fear I have somewhat wandered from the subject of this review so will stop now with one final question for my reader to ponder.
Who needs K-Pop when you have the Moranbong Band?
My next North Korea (2018) – Pyongyang review– HERE
Return to the beginning of my North Korea (2018) – Pyongyang reviews – HERE