North Korea: Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Victorius Fatherland Liberation War Museum or Korean War Museum is a super grand museum dedicated to the war with the USA that resulted in the split Korea. To say this museum is massive would be an understatement – the halls include the world’s largest diorama (no photography) as well as countless exhibits about how Kim Il Sung directed the fight against the imperialist aggressors and invented ways of shooting American planes. Facts are a bit “skewed” in the presentation here – 5000 American planes shot down and 480,000 American troops killed (which is more then the entire US military even today). Outside the main building – there is the massive complex with the captured US weaponry as well as the only US ship to ever be captured – USS Pueblo (captured in Korean waters in 1968 on a spy mission) (the Korean female guide in uniform very diligently explains how the ship was captured and proven to be a spy ship). Excessive in many ways – the museum is an impressive sight for the national psyche for sure!

North Korea: First Introduction to Pyongyang

Straight off the plane we were taken to the city’s heart and central point – Kim Il Sung Square – a vast square where all the parades and festivities take place (last one was a massive celebration of the most recent nuclear test). The square faces the Grand People’s Study House (built in a traditional Korean architectural style), beautiful and expansive fountains, parade viewing stand, headquarters of the Workers Party, and ministries of foreign affairs and foreign trade. And on the opposite side – the Taedong river and the Juche Tower across the water. A leisurely walk along the waterfront introduced many of Pyongyang’s architectural highlights, as well as ordinary Koreans – walking, playing, fishing, and smiling at the rare foreign tourists.