만수대대기념비

Mansudae Grand Monument

8th July 2020 marks the 26th year after the passing of North Korea’s President Kim Il Sung.

Nothing in North Korea is more iconic than the images of their leaders. The smiling faces of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il can be found in homes, schools, offices, factories and public spaces. They are a constant reminder for the local population that they owe everything to their beloved leaders.

Several people have asked me “do North Koreans really worship their leaders as gods?”. The short answer is no. The long answer can be found in my other article: Religion In North Korea.

North Koreans have a deep respect for leadership; in fact, any form of leadership or hierarchy. It is a concept ingrained in their psyche from a young age. I had a very personal experience that helped me understand this.

It was back in 2016. Barack Hussein Obama was still the president of the United States. I was visiting Pyongyang and having dinner with my North Korean counterparts. We were discussing humour and were exchanging jokes.

I had the unusual idea to show them a photo of Obama’s face on toilet paper. (I had internet access at the time because I bought their very expensive 3G data SIM card for foreigners.) I wondered if a political biased novelty item would encourage a bigger response.

They immediately broke out into laughter at the sight of such a ridiculous product and asked which country hated USA so much that they would sell this toilet paper? I explained that it was a novelty item sold on Amazon.

After they realised it was a US online shopping company selling it to US citizens, the entire dinner atmosphere became very serious. They were uncomfortable at the disrespect they deemed US citizens had shown to their own president by even allowing such a product to be sold in the USA.

We had a brief discussion and I came to the understanding that North Koreans hold 3 concepts sacred: Respect for leaders, respect for rank/position and respect for seniority.

To them, it was unacceptable for anyone to make offensive jokes or remarks about their own leaders. Our casual and often mocking world view towards leadership seemed so strange to them.

I may never truly comprehend the level of reverence they have for their leaders, but this rare experience helped me understand them a lot better.

The Mansudae Grand Monument is a place where North Koreans come to manifest their admiration to their leaders, so it is not compulsory for foreigners and tourists to visit. You can opt out of visiting and North Koreans have no issues with that. Because it is one of the most revered grounds to them, they will expect you to show respect should you decide to visit.

Photos

The main figures of the leaders are flanked by two enormous groups of statues that dwarf any visitor to the place.

Seen from the ground
Photographed from the air

360° Panoramas 360

This is the world’s first floating camera 360° panoramic view of the Mansudae Grand Monument photographed with the express permission of the DPRK government on 12th May 2014. The point of view is set at 6 meters above ground level. The two statues of the late presidents are made of bronze and stand at 20 meters tall.

Click to view 360° image

This night time image was photographed on 13th May 2014 at 8:49pm, during one of my evening walks around Pyongyang.

Click to view 360° image

360° Floating Camera Video

Google Map 39°01’55.6″N 125°45’11.5″E

BONUS INFORMATION

Wondering how I captured the elevated 360° video floating above the Koreans? I used a custom rig that mounts two Sony α6300 4K cameras back-to-back and attached Entaniya HAL 250 lenses to each of the cameras. I then used a 6 metre (19.69ft) tall carbon fiber tripod extension to lift the entire unit up in the air. The image you see below was the setup for my second “floating camera” shoot in September 2017.

One thought on “Mansudae Grand Monument

Comments are closed.

Related

China-DPRK Border Towns During The Covid Pandemic (PART 2 – Tumen)

Part 2 of exploring Chinese towns at the border with the DPRK during the 2021 COVID-19 pandemic. We follow Minhye as she takes a trip to Tumen City (图们市). Tumen city is a small town that is part of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, located in Jilin Province in northeast China. It has an ethnic Korean population of approximately 80,000.

China-DPRK Border Towns During The Covid Pandemic (PART 1 – Changbai)

Since January 2020, the DPRK has shut its borders due to the COVID-19 virus. China has also implemented strict border controls to maintain their zero-COVID strategy. It has been almost two years since tourism halted between these two friendly neighbours. With no more tours to the DPRK being offered, what is life and tourism like in the Chinese border towns during such times? Our resident contributor made recent trips to visit border towns along the Yalu River and Tumen River. Join Minhye on her journey as she explores the Changbai Korean Autonomous County