Have you ever heard of the saying "all roads lead to Kim Il Sung Square?" Well, maybe you haven’t, but in North Korea they do. Kim Il Sung Square is point 0 in the DPRK. It is where all national roads in the DPRK lead to.
Kim Il Sung Square is the most important square in North Korea and often shown in the media around the world. Known for holding mass rallies and demonstrations as well as military parades, all of which portray thousands of North Koreans and their leaders, there are several aspects of the Square unknown to many which you can read about below. 100 thousand people fit in the square and it's area is 75,000 m².
North Korean guides Kim Jong Hwa (a Youtube celebrity!) and Mr. Kang pose with a student from Kim Il Sung University
Navigate around the image and press the volume icon to feel like you are actually there!
Kim Il Sung Square is located in the city centre on the west side of the Taedong River. It is therefore surrounded by several government buildings. Close-by landmarks that you can visit include the Mansudae Grand Monuments, Fountain Park, the Grand People’s Study House and the Foreign Language bookstore. We also arrange walks from the Pyongyang Theatre to Kim Il Sung Square.
Portraits of the Leaders President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il in Kim Il Sung Square. The building in the background is the Grand People's Study House.
Views of the square are with no doubt best from the Grand People's Study House. We arrange a visit to one of the balconies on one of the building's top floors where you can enjoy great views of the square and of the Juche Tower which is on the other side of the Taedong River.
The Juche Tower itself is also a great place to take pictures of the square and of Pyongyang in general.
Night views of Kim Il Sung Square from the Grand People's Study House
We took this from the Juche Tower
Picture taken from the Grand People's Study House. Notice thousands of people on each side of the road in the square practicing for a military parade.
The Square is divided into two, with Victory Street (Sungri Street / 승리거리) running in between in a north-south direction. On the western side of Kim Il Sung Square you have the Foreign Trade Ministry, the building with the party flag banner, on one side and the Ministry of Agriculture building, with the DPRK flag banner on the top, on the other side. The Grand People’s Study House is in the background.
Taxi ride by Kim Il Sung Square - Former Korean guide, Kim Song Sim, and KTG staff member, Rayco, cruising by Kim Il Sung Square. You can see the building of the Ministry of Agriculture with the giant DPRK flag banner in the background. The Grand People's Study House is on the left of the picture.
On the eastern side of the square you have the History Museum building. This building has an image of a soldier blowing a trumpet. On the other side you have the Korean Fine Art Gallery. You can see the Juche Tower in the background. The Juche Tower is actually on the other side of the river and it is perfectly aligned with the square and the Grand People’s Study House. Because the square is above the river bank, from the square itself it looks like the Juche Tower is part of the square.
You can see the building of the Foreign Trade Ministry in the background
It was completed in 1954 (referred to in North Korea as Juche 43) just a year after the Korean War which devastated Pyongyang. The square is named after the founder and Eternal President of the DPRK, President Kim Il Sung.
The square used to have the portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin until quite recently (2012). Marxism and Leninism has been gradually losing terrain in Korean politics and literature since the 1970s to the Juche Philosophy and Kimilsungism.
Portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin in Kim Il Sung Square. We took this picture in 2010. The portraits were removed in 2012. The building is the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Trade.
No Marx, no Lenin - we took this in 2012 when the portraits were removed. Can you spot the DHL van in the picture?
Another major change, also in 2012, months after Leader Kim Jong Il passed away, was that the portrait of a young Kim Il Sung was removed from the building of the Ministry of Agriculture. It was replaced by the current portraits of the leaders which are located in the middle of the eastern point of the square.
Picture taken in 2010
Picture taken in 2012
You probably relate Kim Il Sung Square to military parades and mass rallies but we also go to Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate several major national holidays in Korea as views of any firework displays, which usually take place from the Juche Tower are fantastic. The birthdays of the Leaders; 15 April for President Kim Il Sung and 16 February for Chairman Kim Jong Il are celebrated here by locals in the evening. You can see a short video from our Youtube channel of celebrations taking place in Kim Il Sung Square for Chairman Kim Jong Il’s Birthday, as you can see there is no shortage of fireworks!
We also go to Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate the New Year with thousands of Koreans.
On some other major anniversaries there can be too Mass Dances taking place in the square. This is when several hundred Koreans dance in a synchronised way. They tend to be university students but we can also see workers participating.
When these take place in Kim Il Sung Square there are thousands of people dancing. Please check our Youtube video below from a video taken back in 2015 when the 125 Anniversary Labour Day was celebrated in Pyongyang at Kim Il Sung Square:
An Austrian Coffee Shop in the heart of Pyongyang? That is correct. Right by Kim Il Sung Square, in the adjacent Korean History building, lies a quiet Viennese coffee shop; Helmut Sachers Kaffee / Ryongwang Coffee Shop. Indeed, the heart of the capital of North Korea is not where you would expect to be able to enjoy a Viennese coffee with a piece of cherry streusel and Austrian classical music playing in the background. This small coffee shop opened in 2011. As you look around the imported coffee makers and see all the foreign ingredients and material used in the coffee shop, the view of the Juche Tower out of the window reminds you that you are actually in North Korea.
Picture taken during a winter trip at the Helmut Sachers Kaffee in Pyongyang. A coffee break is much appreciated given the cold North Korean winters. Traditionally tours are not arranged during the coldest winter days in North Korea, though it is now possible to go in December and January to the DPRK
Did you know that there is an underground market just under the square? It is only accessible to locals and they sell food, clothes and other daily product.
Did you know that the square is full of white dots on the the ground? They are used so that people know where to stand when mass rallies and military parades take place.
Child roller skating on an autumn day in Kim Il Sung Square. Check the white marks on the ground.
Did you know that Kim Il Sung Square is also just used for fun by locals? As you walk around the square you may also see groups of people rehearsing for mass exercises such as the Mass Games. However, a stark contrast between what we would expect to see in the square based on images of mass rallies and demonstrations seen on western media and obtained from North Korea TV is the view of people going along with their daily lives and children skating around as we can see in the images above and below.
Did you know that the square is made of granite?
Did you know that DHL have their offices in Kim Il Sung Square? Click here to see their van.
Did you know that Kim Il Sung Square has an area of 75,000 m² and fits up to 100,000 people? Well, we did mention it in our introduction above, so if you didn't know it means that you have not been reading this page carefully!
Please go to our North Korea Tourism section to see other points of interest in North Korea.