Kumsusan Sun Memorial Palace

Kumsusan Sun Memorial Palace information

Lonely Planet review

Kim Il-sung’s residence during his lifetime, the Kumsusan Palace remains so in death. At the time of writing the embalmed corpse of Kim Jong-il was believed to be being added to the top-floor viewing chamber where North Koreans come en masse to pay their respects to the Great Leader. The palace is eerie, with bricked-in windows and a vast and empty plaza before it. Just getting to the viewing chamber is adventure enough. First of all you’ll need to be dressed smartly (shirts, ties and trousers for men, modest dress for women) , then you’ll go through airport-style security, allowed to take only your wallet and camera with you, pass along miles of slow red travelators and then be dusted off by both automatic shoe cleaners and a giant clothes-dusting machine. In the sombre Hall of Lamentations you’ll hear an English-language audio guide narrating the Korean people’s grief at Kim Il-sung’s death. This completed, you’ll finally ascend to the viewing chamber itself, where you’ll proceed to the glass bier and bow three times (once on each side, but not bowing when you’re standing behind the Great Leader’s head). If you had any doubt that your trip to North Korea would keep you in dinner-party anecdotes for decades to come, the Kumsusan Memorial Palace will quash them.

Just as eerie is the Tower of Immortality , under which the traffic to the palace must pass from central Pyongyang. This tower, one of hundreds throughout the country, bears the legend ‘The Great Leader Comrade Kim Il-sung will always be with us’. The writing on the monument was being amended at the time of writing to include mention of Kim Jong-il.