I’m only TWO sleeps away from my flight into Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) (also known as North Korea) and FOUR sleeps away from my Pyongyang Marathon run. I’m getting quite excited about boarding Air Koryo and spending 3 whole days exploring DPRK. Given all the latest news in media, I was warned by at least a ton of people not to touch or stealing anything from the country. oH well, it is almost impossible not to touch anything, but I promise that I will steal anything and will be coming back in one piece for my birthday =P
Some of you have been exceptionally curious about what do I pack for my trip – wait till my post for tomorrow for a sneak peak of my suitcase!
Here are the highlights of my route:
Kim Il Sung Stadium
The official Pyongyang Marathon course route starts and ends in the famous Kim Il Sung Stadium, home to the DPRK National Football Team, the DPRK National Women’s Football Team and the Pyongyang City League. It’s an open-air stadium designed for a variety of sports games nestled at the foot of Moran Hill. It was originally called the Moranbong Stadium, but in April 1982 with the renovation and expansion of the stadium to accommodate 100,000 seats, it was re-named the Kim Il Sung Stadium.
After the starting pistol is shot, the professional runners will lead the pack with a lap around the Kim Il Sung Stadium to mark the start of the race. The stands will be packed with excited spectators.
Arch of Triumph
As runners depart the Kim Il Sung Stadium to hit the streets of Pyongyang, they will cross through the iconic Arch of Triumph. This tower is the second largest triumphal arc in the world, standing 60m high and 52.5m wide, beating the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in height by 10 meters. It was built in April 1982 to commemorate the liberation of Korea from Japan occupation. The dates of the occupation are carved into each side of the arch “1925” and “1945”. 10,500 blocks of granite were used to build this massive arch. The carvings at the top of the arch are the words to “Song of General Kim Il Sung.”
The Friendship Tower was built by the DPRK in memory of the heroic China People’s Volunteer Army soldiers who fought in the Korean War to aid the North. It celebrates DPRK-China friendship. First built in October 1959, it was later re-built and expanded in 1984. It’s 30 meters high.
It’s reported from each respective source that 152,000 Chinese soldiers, and between 215-350,000 North Korean soldiers, died in the Korean War. 137,899 South Korean soldiers and 36,574 U.S. soldiers comprised the majority of the deaths on the opposing side, with 17 other countries suffering casualties and deaths in the Korean War fighting for the South Korean side. (Source: wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War#Casualties)
Kim Il Sung University
Founded on October 1, 1946, the Kim Il Sung University is the most prestigious university in the DPRK. The disciplines taught in the humanities are: Social sciences, history, philosophy, government and economics, law, politics, international relations, Korean language, foreign languages, Kim Il-sung Revolutionary History, and Kim Jong-Il Revolutionary History. Hard science disciplines include: natural science, physics, mathematics, biology, geography, chemistry, geology, atomic energy and automation.
Chongryu Bridge and the May Day Stadium
Cross the Chongryu Bridge over the Taedong River and take in sights of the Rungrado May Day Stadium, the largest stadium in the world. It’s home to the famous Arirang Mass Games and just underwent a renovation in 2014. This open-air stadium was completed on May Day in 1989, seats over 150,000 people and sits on the Rungrado Islet.
The Tower of Juche Idea can be seen from most places in the city, standing tall at 170 meters high. Completed in April 1982, the tower is located on the western side of the Taedong River, directly across from the Kim Il Sung Square and the Grand People’s Study House. It represents the Juche Philosophy, which serves as the national ideology of self-reliance and independence. The lift inside the tower takes you to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The iconic flame at the top of the flower lights the city at night.
Rungra Bridge and Mansudae Grand Monuments
Cross the Rungra Bridge and run past the Mansudae Grand Monuments, where you’ll find the iconic bronze statues of the late leaders. At 22 meters high, President Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il smile (quite literally) upon the city. Behind them is a mosaic of the Paekdu Mountains, the mythical birthplace of Korea. The building behind the mosaic is a revolutionary war museum open only to locals. On both sides of the statues are dramatic monuments of soldiers who fought in the Korean War. The soldiers on the right side of the bronze statues are holding a Marx book. The soldiers on the left side are holding a Kim Il Sung Works book.
Puksae Street is a historical street known for its bustle. Currently, this street is the go-to for nightlife, restaurants, and bars.