Wonsan is a major North Korean port city and capital of Kangwon province. It was established in the 1880s.
Wonsan Skyline - night views of Wonsan city on the east coast of North Korea
The road trip from Pyongyang is approximately 4 hours long, though this will include a stop at a guest house known for its... snake liquor. Nothing like this refreshment as you cross from one side of the DPRK to the other!
Though a relatively bumpy ride, this trip is a fascinating one as it allows travellers to literally drive across the DPRK from one side to the other. Going through smaller cities and counties allows us to have a unique glimpse of people's life throughout this mysterious country.
Apart from seeing local sites, you can explore around the local port where people gather and go fishing and the beach where you can join in with locals. Read on to what else there is to do in this port city!
The Grand Statues of President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il in Wonsan. Originally they just had the statue of a younger President Kim Il Sung. See the picture we took below in 2011.
Did you know that Wonsan is the first major city where the founder and President of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, arrived after the liberation of Korea from Japan in 1945? He arrived from the northeast and stayed there from 18 to 20 September before heading by train to Pyongyang.
The train station itself, also known as the Wonsan Old Train Station, was destroyed during the Korean War and was reconstructed as Revolutionary Site in 1975 (Juche 63). A visit to the old city train station where he arrived together with a model copy of the house where he stayed can be seen by travellers in this eastern city of North Korea.
The train station is located in the city centre. As you enter there is a large square with the train station building with the characters 元山 which means Wonsan in Chinese characters (used by the Japanese).
Once in the station you can visit the waiting room which shows the original train timetable.
Former guide Mr. Ju and top guide Ms. Yu at the Wonsan Train Station Revolutionary Site
You can then visit a room with a replica of the train used then. It has the sign ‘パシニ３ on it.
Replica of the 3rd class train carriage taken by President Kim Il Sung from Wonsan to Pyonyang
Replica of the Tongyang Guesthouse at the Train Station Revolutionary Site
A replica of the Tongyang Guesthouse, which is where President Kim Il Sung stayed can then be also be visited. Both the interior and exterior designs are Japanese styled. Remember that Wonsan was destroyed during the Korean War, meaning that the guesthouse was built from scratch too.
Swimming with locals will definitely be an experience you won't forget!
There is actually a division on the beach, you will find that one side of the division tends to have many more people and many of our travellers check this part out.
Koreans are very friendly and welcoming people, something many people don’t really tend to appreciate until once in Korea. We strongly recommend you to ask the locals (sign language is fine if you do not speak Korean) if you can join in the fun or to buy a beach ball and see if any locals will join you. Very few westerners go to the DPRK each year, even less venture out to the east coast, so your presence will most definitely pique locals' curiosity.
There is too a platform where locals dive into the sea. If you are a good swimmer why not head out there?
You can see locals gathering around here and fishing and can join in with them.
You will have too the chance of seeing a variety of DPRK ships. Wonsan is a port city in the DPRK and used to be the main connecting point between Japan and North Korea when relations between the two countries were better and also during Japanese colonialism.
Nothing like going here to enjoy the view of the city's entire seafront.
Jangdok Islet has a lighthouse up a hill. Views of the entire city are great here. Moreover, many locals gather on the pier that leads to the islet to have seafood barbecue, drinks, to dance and to sing. It is not uncommon for locals to ask us to join in for a drink if they are having a barbecue.
Great chance to see Korean kids enjoy their summer holidays.
This facility increased its capacity in 1993 and now 1,200 children from Korea and abroad come here in the summer months. While the vast majority of kids who come here are Koreans from all around the DPRK, there are too foreign children, something that allows for cultural exchange between participants.
Chance to see where farmers live with their families. You will be able to enter a North Korean family's home and see the schools attended by the children which are located in the farm premises.
Beautiful university campus located north of Wonsan city.
Many national heroes and top scientists have graduated from here.
It has also been visited by the leaders of the DPRK on many ocasions.
Greenhouse on Campus - notice the red sign marking the visits of the leaders
The campus itself looks like a botanical garden with a great variety of plants, trees and flowers spread throughout it. There are too greenhouses, powered with solar panels, which can be visited.
The buildings themselves are pre-Korean War, some of them literally covered in creeper plants.
Words of President Kim Il Sung
Interesting: In 2015 new uniforms were handed to university students. These consist of grey blazers, white shirts, navy blue trousers and a red tie and navy blue beret for male students, white shirts, navy blue skirts for women.
The Songdowon Hotel was built in the 1970s.
There are two main hotels in downtown Wonsan where we stay when visiting the city; the Songdowon Hotel and the Tongmyong Hotel (also spelled Dongmyong). Please check on each picture for more information.
They are located just a few meters apart and right by the seafront.
The Tongmyong Hotel is smaller and was built in the 1990s.
Not technically in Wonsan but a place we always stop at, weather conditions permitting, either before or after going to Wonsan. These falls were discovered in 2001 by some soldiers. Bear in mind that 83% of North Korea consists is mountainous. Ullim means echo in Korean. The walk to the falls is a pleasant once and views are truly impressive!