The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula in East Asia. It extends southwards for about 1,100 km (680 mi) from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the East Sea to the east, and the Yellow Sea (known in Korea as West Sea) to the west, the Korea Strait connecting the first two bodies of water.
South Korea, an East Asian nation on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, shares one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea. It’s equally known for its green, hilly countryside dotted with cherry trees and centuries-old Buddhist temples, plus its coastal fishing villages, sub-tropical islands and high-tech cities such as Seoul, the capital.
North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (abbreviated as DPRK, DPR Korea or Korea DPR), is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang is the nation’s capital and largest city. To the north and northwest, the country is bordered by China and by Russia along the Amnok (known as the Yalu in China) and Tumen rivers; it is bordered to the south by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone(DMZ) separating the two. Nevertheless, North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands. Both North Korea and South Korea became members of the United Nations in 1991.
Seodaemun Prison History Hall is a special museum located at Seodaemun Independence Park. It was built near the end of the Joseon Dynasty (~1910), and was where Japanese soldiers tortured and later executed Korean Independence Movement followers. Seodaemun Prison History Hall was built in remembrance of Seodaemun Prison, and to salute the Korean patriots. There you’ll find seven jail cells, a historical exhibition hall, an execution room, watchtowers and a basement jail cell where Yu Gwan-sun a historic figure during the independence movement died. The 1st floor is “A Place of Reverence,” where you can learn about Seodaemun Prison through a video. A large screen shows the background of its founding and the transition periods in its history. The Reference Room has displays and information on Korea’s history. The museum also holds special exhibits. The 2nd floor is “A Place of History,” where you can view the “National Resistance Room,” “Prison History Room” and the “In Prison Life Room.” This floor shows examples of how the people fought through this dark chapter in history continuing to hold on to their hopes and resolve for freedom. “A Place of Experience” is the most horrifying and dreadful place in the prison. In the “Temporary Detention Room” and “Torture Room” you will see recreated torture scenes that are frighteningly realistic. At the Seodamun Independence Park nearby you can visit the Independence Hall, the Patriotic Martyr Monument, the March 1st Declaration of Independence Monument, Relic no. 32 and no. 33.
SEOUL – The War Memorial of Korea
The War Memorial of Korea, located in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, exhibits and preserve materials related to the Korean War and serves as a national moral educational venue. It was established to commemorate the noble sacrifice of patriotic martyrs by the War Memorial Service Korea Society on June 10, 1994. The museum houses approximately 33,000 artefacts with about 10,000 on display at indoor and outside exhibition halls. There are six separate indoor halls, including Expeditionary Forces Room, Patriotic Memorial Room, War History Room, 6·25 Korean War Room, Development Hall and Large Machinery Room. The outdoor exhibition hall showcases large-sized weapons. Visitors of all ages from children to adults can also participate in 20 various educational programs and diverse cultural events such as military music and honor guard events, drawing contest, cultural event and more. The character of War Memorial of Korea is ‘Mudori’ featuring a helmet symbolizing the protection of the nation and a bay leaf meaning peace.
MUJU – Taekwondowon
Korea’s proud cultural heritage resides in Taekwondowon, the driving force of spiritual and physical growth going beyond Korea to across the world and the hub from where the universalization of the taekwondo spirit and values begins. Taekwondowon, proudly established in the country where the sport was born from its international debut in the Olympics, taekwondo and its related facilities and objects are all housed in the world’s only professional taekwondo venue. A living cultural heritage site for all to feel Korea and be moved by its warmth through the spirit of taekwondo. Taekwondowon, the new pilgrimage destination for international taekwondo practitioners, is the birthplace of taekwondo with a befittingly expansive space for interactive, educational, and cultural exchanges, and the pivotal hub to bring taekwondo to the world.
View from Hills
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ; Hangul: 한반도 비무장 지대; Hanja: 韓半島非武裝地帶) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula. It is established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
The city is across the river from Sinŭiju, North Korea. The two cities are connected by the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge. Less than 100 meters downstream is the Yalu River Broken Bridge which was destroyed by American bombing during the Korean War. Tourists can rent speedboats or passenger boats to approach the border and get a closer look at the North Korean city of Sinŭiju. There is a Ferris wheel in Sinŭiju visible from across the Yalu River. From November 1950 to February 1951, Dandong’s Sino–Korean Friendship Bridge was bombed by the United States during the Korean War, as was an older iron bridge leading to North Korea. Even though the Sino–Korean Friendship Bridge was rebuilt, the remains of the Japanese-built iron bridge were left and now serve as a war monument. On 20 January 1965, the city adopted its present name of Dandong, which means “red east,” to avoid the connotations of its previous name, which was considered imperialistic by some. Recently, the city has been gaining influence in this region of China because of its market with North Korea and the government’s future plans to develop the city into a special “Border Economic Cooperation Zone” for export and import in order to expand the country’s ability to conduct trade.
Chinese – North Korean Border
Great Wall of China
The Hushan or Tiger Mountain Great Wall is known to Koreans as Bakjak Fortress is the most easterly known part of the Great Wall of China. About 600 metres of remains were excavated here in 1989. In 1992, a section of wall was renovated and opened to the public, forming a popular tourist attraction. The wall runs for about 1,200 metres over Hushan (Tiger Mountain). The wall starts 15 km northeast of Dandong city, directly beside the China-North Korea border. It then climbs steeply up to a height of 146.3 metres before descending on the other side of Hushan and finishing at a car park. Historically, Dandong was a settlement established to protect the Chinese heartland during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. The identification of Hushan as the eastern terminus of the Great Wall in 2009 was met with scepticism by Korean academia. Professor Kwon Hee-young alleges that the Chinese renamed it from Bakjak to Hushan, then rebuilt the fortress and identified it with the Great Wall as part of the Northeast Project of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that aimed to diminish local traces of the Goguryeo Kingdom, which Koreans consider to have first built Bakjak (Hushan). However, the Yan and Qin Great Wall was known to have extended through Dandong to modern Pyongan Province in North Korea. Qin dynasty relics have been discovered at the Great Wall in south Chifeng, to the west of Dandong.
The Yalu River Broken Bridge (Chinese: 鸭绿江断桥; pinyin: Yālù Jiāng Duàn Qiáo) is a half-destroyed railway bridge over the Yalu River that connected the Chinese city of Dandong with the North Korean city of Sinuiju. It was the first bridge across the Yalu, built by the Empire of Japan in 1911 to connect Korea (then under Japanese rule) to the Eurasian rail network. Its Korean half was destroyed by American bombing during the Korean War, and has been dismantled. Four spans (out of an original 12) on the Chinese side of the bridge remain standing and are preserved as a historical and tourist site.
The bridge was built by the Empire of Japan in 1911, to connect Japanese-ruled Korea with the Eurasian rail network. With its completion, the southern Korean port of Busan became connected by rail all the way to Calais, France. The Japanese began building the bridge in 1909, before the Qing dynasty government of China granted permission for its construction. By April 1910, with the Korean side of the bridge already half completed, Japan applied heavy pressure on the weak Qing government, then in its last throes, to authorize construction on the Chinese side. It was opened in October 1911, the first bridge across the Yalu River. In April 1937, when Northeast China was ruled by the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo, Japan built a bigger bridge less than 100 metres (330 ft) upstream, now known as the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge.
During the Korean War, the United States Air Force repeatedly bombed the Yalu River bridges to disrupt the transportation of Chinese troops and supplies into North Korea. On November 8, 1950, the US dispatched more than 100 B-29s to bomb the bridges, and six days later, another 34 bombers attacked and destroyed three spans of the older bridge.The aerial attacks were suspended on December 5 because the Yalu was frozen over and the Chinese could easily cross the river at many points. In February 1951, the US resumed bombing and destroyed the bridge except for four spans on the Chinese side. From then on it became known as the Broken Bridge.
PYONGYANG – The City
Pyongyang was destroyed during the Korean War and has been entirely rebuilt according to a design reflecting Kim Il-sung’s vision. His dream was reportedly to create a capital that would boost morale in the post-war years. The result was a city with wide, tree-lined boulevards and public buildings with terraced landscaping, mosaics and decorated ceilings. Its Russian-style architecture makes it reminiscent of a Siberian city during winter snowfall, although edifices of traditional Korean design somewhat soften this perception. In summer, it is notable for its rivers, willow trees, flowers, and parkland.
The streets are laid out in a north-south, east-west grid, giving the city an orderly appearance. North Korean designers applied the Swedish experience of self-sufficient urban neighbourhoods throughout the entire country, and Pyongyang is no exception. Its inhabitants are mostly divided into administrative units of 5,000 to 6,000 people (dong). These units all have similar sets of amenities including a food store, a barber shop, a tailor, a public bathhouse, a post office, a clinic, a library, and others. Many residents occupy high-rise apartment buildings. One of Kim Il-sung’s priorities while designing Pyongyang was to limit the population. Authorities maintain a restrictive regime of movement into the city, making it atypical of East Asia as it is silent, uncrowded and spacious.
Structures in Pyongyang are divided into three major architectural categories: monuments, buildings with traditional Korean motifs and high-rises. Some of North Korea’s most recognisable landmarks are monuments, like the Juche Tower, the Arch of Triumph and the Mansu Hill Grand Monument. The first of them is a 170-meter granite spire symbolizing the Juche ideology. It was completed in 1982 and contains 25,550 granite blocks, one for each day of Kim Il-sung’s life up to that point. The most prominent building on Pyongyang’s skyline is Ryugyong Hotel, the seventh highest building in the world terms of floor count, the tallest unoccupied building in the world, and one of the tallest hotels in the world. It has yet to open.
Pyongyang has a rapidly evolving skyline, dominated by high-rise apartment buildings. A construction boom began with the Changjon Street Apartment Complex which was completed in 2012. Construction of the complex began after late leader Kim Jong-il described Changjon Street as “pitiful”. Other housing complexes are being upgraded as well, but most are still poorly insulated, and lacking elevators and central heating. An urban renewal program continued under Kim Jong-un’s leadership, with the old apartments of the 1970s and ’80s replaced by taller high rise buildings and leisure parks like the Kaesong Youth Park, as well as renovations of older buildings. In 2018, the city was described as unrecognizable compared to five years before.
The structure is modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but is 10 metres (33 ft) taller. The arch has dozens of rooms, balustrades, observation platforms and elevators. It also has four vaulted gateways, each 27 m (89 ft) high, decorated with azalea carved in their girth. Inscribed in the arch is the revolutionary hymn “Song of General Kim Il-sung”, and the year 1925, when North Korean history states that Kim set out on the journey for national liberation of the country from Japanese rule. Also depicted on the arch is the year 1945, when Korea was liberated.
Mountain View on Pyongyang.
PYONGYANG – Korean War Museum
The Victorious War Museum, or the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, is a history/military museum dedicated to the Korean War located in the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang museum was first set up in August of 1953 and built in the Central District of Pyongyang, initially named as the “Fatherland Liberation War Museum.” In April of 1963, it was relocated to the Sosong District and re-established in a purpose-built building compound. In 2014, the museum was renovated and upgraded significantly and the new design included a building spanning across the nearby Botong River, together with a large panorama-style display hall at the top.
SINCHON – Museum of American Atrocities
The Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities (Korean: 신천박물관) is a museum dedicated to the Sinchon Massacre, a mass-murder of North Korean civilians allegedly carried out by South Korean and US troops during the Korean War. The museum is located in Sinchon County of North Korea. In July 2015, the museum was rebuilt and moved to a new location in the country. The Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities commemorates the deaths of over 35,000 people from 17 October to 7 December in 1950, at the same period of time when the major cities of North Korea, such as Pyongyang (the capital city) and Hamhung, were under a wartime occupation by South Korean, American and United Nations military forces.
PYONGYANG – Grand People Study House
Grand People’s Study House is one of the most famous buildings in Pyongyang and part of pretty much every tour to the DPRK. North Korea’s central library is located at Kim Il-sung Square in the heart of Pyongyang and can hold up to 30 million books, including a couple of foreign ones. It was built in a traditional Korean style over a period of 21 months and opened in April of 1982 to honor Kim Il-sung’s 70th birthday. The library was opened as the “centre for the project of intellectualising the whole of society and a sanctuary of learning for the entire people.”
MYOHYANGSAN – International Friendship Exhibition
The International Friendship Exhibition is a collection of halls that house gifts presented to former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il from various foreign dignitaries. The protocol of gift-giving is well established in Korean culture. Built in a traditional style, the halls opened on 26 August 1978 and consist of over 150 rooms covering a total area of between 28,000 and 70,000 square metres. The building offers the impression that it has windows, though it has none. According to a local legend, Kim Jong-il built the International Friendship Exhibition in three days; however, actual construction took a year. Currently, estimates of how many gifts the exhibition holds vary between 60,000 and 220,000 gifts. On entering the exhibition, shoes must be removed and visitors are asked to bow before portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Satellite imagery from 2017 shows increased underground activity at the site, suggesting an expansion may be underway.
POHYONSA – Buddist Temple
Pohyon-sa is a Korean Buddhist temple located in Hyangsan county in North Pyong’ a Province, North Korea. It is located within the Myohyang Mountains. Founded under the Koryo dynasty at the start of the 11th century, the temple flourished as one of the greatest centers of Buddhism in the north of Korea, and became a renowned place of pilgrimage. Like most other temples in North Korea, the complex suffered extensive damage from US bombing during the Korean War. The temple is designated as National Treasure #40 in North Korea, with many of its component buildings and structures further declared as individual national treasures.
NAMPHO – West Sea Dam
The Nampho Dam or West Sea Dam, also known as the West Sea Barrage, is a tidal barrage located 15 km west of the special city of Nampho. It is a large, eight-km-long system of dams, three lock chambers, and 36 slices, allowing the passage of ships up to 50,000 tons. The dam closes the Taedong River off from the Yellow Sea. It was built from 1981 to 1986, with the resources of the whole country directed to this main construction project. The dam is considered a major accomplishment of North Korea, and is a commonly seen backdrop for North Korean television news broadcasts from Korean Central News Agency. It is also a popular stop for tour groups of international tourists, for whom there is a visitor centre on P’i Do Island where films are shown about the construction of the dam and the locks.
North Korean Soldiers
PYONGYANG – Metro
The Pyongyang Metro (Chosŏn’gŭl: 평양 지하철도; MR: P’yŏngyang Chihach’ŏlto) is the metro system in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. It consists of two lines: the Chollima Line, which runs north from Puhŭng Station on the banks of the Taedong River to Pulgŭnbyŏl Station, and the Hyŏksin Line, which runs from Kwangbok Station in the southwest to Ragwŏn Station in the northeast. The two lines intersect at Chŏnu Station. Daily ridership is estimated to be between 300,000 and 700,000. Structural engineering of the Metro was completed by North Korea, with rolling stock and related electronic equipment imported from China. This was later replaced with rolling stock acquired from East Germany. The Pyongyang Metro has a museum devoted to its construction and history.