North Korea: Pyongyang -
Palace of Pioneers and Schoolchildren. (Translated by
Our next subject is a Palace of Pioneers and
If I am not mistaken, there are two of them in Pyongyang. This one (located
in the Mangende district), however, is the largest.
The building occupies
about three thousand square meters. The hall is designed to hold two
thousand people. Plus there is an inner stadium, a pool, and various
areas for interest groups.
We were taken there with other tourists
to watch a children's concert. Although I am not very fond of such
things, it turned out to be a pleasure to view.
The various musical
numbers (both solo and chorus) were each very different, and performed
with great exactitude.
I recorded about a minute of video (500kb). You can view it using
another .3pg player. The image quality is low, but it has sound.
there are a few shots of the palace interior.
In the background is a photo of Kim Jong Il.
Regarding the Korean language:
I used to think that Chinese,
Japanese and Korean were all hieroglyphic scripts. But it turns out that
it's not the case at all with the latter. The Korean language is regular
in its structure, like Russian or English. It has an alphabet with 24
letters. However, when they are written, they are composed into groups
(each group sounds out a syllable). Thus, outwardly, it may look like
hieroglyphics. For example, this sign has the name of a city:
"Pyongyang." A circle (stretched or not doesn't matter) is similar in
its sound to an "N". It is silent at the beginning of the second
syllable (according to some rule).
There is an important difference between
the North Korean and South Korean languages. In South Korean one may
often encounter introduced Chinese characters. This became absent from
North Korean. Beginning in the late 1940's such borrowed words were
slowly replaced with native ones. It is said that a few Chinese
hieroglyphic words remain, but I did not encounter them once, on
billboards or in newspapers.
Usually groups of letters are written
horizontally from left to right. However, a vertical arrangement (from
top to bottom, as in the old times in Russia) is also allowed, and is
found on monuments and some posters.
It is a separate issue when they write in script or use some kind of
exquisite font. There you can't even tell right away which letters are
being written :)
(I'd like to call attention to the interesting light
fixtures in this shot.)
I remembered this along the way...
Koreans are excellent singers, i.e. many of the people, not just
For example, both our ladies sang karaoke, and in the park I
observed how folks were gathering to sing, while at one of the
restaurants the waitresses got on stage (all of them, not just a select
few) after serving and began singing while playing musical instruments.
And they sang really well too.
National folk music or something like pop with folksy motifs is
performed. The melodies to some songs are reminiscent of Russian ones.
What else is there to tell...
The young women (now that they've been mentioned :) in Korea look nice.
They are usually embarrassed if they see that they're being looked at. A
few times they could be observed hiding their faces with a newspaper or
a book (particularly from Europeans. I suspect that this [behavior] may
hold some sort of ancient roots.)
They consider it their
responsibility to 1). Let a man go first. 2). Open and close doors for
him (of a car, a room and so on). 3). Carry the bags. 4). Pour a man
wine, beer or beverages, and make sure that the glass stays full.
The first three points were overcome within a couple days, but there
wasn't a chance with the fourth :)
Also, as I discovered, kissing is altogether not customary. No! I
didn't check :-)
All citizens of the DPRK wear small pins
with a picture of Kim Il Song on their chest (on the left side).
is mandatory. The exceptions seem to be waitresses, performers, and a
There are several different pins. According to some unconfirmed
observations they are related to status, i.e. a Komsomol [young workers'
organization member] and a Party worker should in principle wear
The loss of a pin may result in serious consequences.
The palace was opened in 1989.
Note that the date is written backwards (year-month-date).
On the square in front of the building
you can see the buses that brought the tourists.
Very many Europeans
were attending the concert (At least with respect to other places. In
any case they comprised less than a third of the audience:)
There were also, as usual, Chinese and Japanese tourists, Korean
bureaucrats (perhaps) and Pioneers [members of youth organization].
Judging by the lively exchanges following the concert, it was very
well enjoyed by most.
Before I forget, I would like to
formulate what seems interesting about the architecture of Pyongyang.
It seems to me that up to the middle of the 1980's the development of
architectural ideas paralleled the course of that in the USSR. However,
when Perestroika happened in the USSR, the progression of architectural
style, that was starting to develop in Russia, stalled. We just shifted
towards copying European and American buildings (economical and
functional, nothing more), or the erection of lone buildings, not
coordinated with their environment and surrounding structures.
But in Pyongyang the development continued in the late 1980's and in
the 1990's (right now, it seemed to me, large projects were frozen)
In addition, there are large numbers of modern buildings here whose
architecture was clearly influenced by national traditions (see
In the next album we will continue our tour of the monuments and
buildings in Pyongyang.