Grand People's Study House

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Pyongyang, North Korea

Grand People's Study House Pyongyang Reviews

wabat wabat
160 reviews
Grand People’s Study House (Part 2) Feb 12, 2017
In part one of my review I provided a broad overview of the Study House/ library. In this review I will cover the library’s resources available to the people.

The Grand People’s Study House is said to contain 30 million volumes and other articles including the 10,800 works of Kim Il-sung and, perhaps more famously among tourists, it does contain an encyclopedia on chickens which forms part of the library’s English Language collection. While Kim Il-sung's works include a substantial amount of guidance notes based on this visits to factories, farms, schools, etc they also include an opera, a number of songs, poetry, text books, histories and of course his teachings, most importantly his writings on his Juche Idea (his philosophy of self reliance based on independence and his own peculiar brand of socialism).

For a building that is supposed to contains 30 million books we saw very few (picture 1) though we were assured by our guides that the books are primarily in stacks not directly accessible to the public. To get a book you must locate it in the catalogues (partly card/partly computerised) and ask the librarians to bring it to you. It will arrive via a rather cute little conveyor belt system.

From the library’s ‘substantial, foreign language collection we sighted four items including that famous encyclopedia on chickens (picture 5). Access to foreign language books and, some say, Korean books older than 15 years, is carefully controlled and not available to all “the people”.

Given the size of the building (or being cynical, because there was nothing in them) we did not have time to enter but a few of the rooms in the Study House. Should you have more time on your visit you might want to see if your guide can get access for you to room 1004 where you will find the “Works of Kim Il-Sung and books on his greatness” or room 2012 an “Area of Education through Revolutionary Materials”. Before you leave the Study House, while in the bookshop/café, don’t forget to pick up your copy of Kim Jong-un’s 2012 work “Let us accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche, holding Kim Jong-il in high esteem as the Eternal General Secretary of our Party”. By all accounts a riveting read!

While we were unable to visit rooms 1004 and 2012 we did get to see reading rooms (picture 2) lecture rooms; internet rooms (North Korean internet only available); revolutionary artwork adorning the corridors; language laboratories (picture 3) where we were able to give ‘on the spot guidance’, just like the Leaders, to students practising their English; music appreciation rooms where western music, including Madonna’s True Blue album, was available though we got to hear the Beetles (picture 4 – you got to dig the boom boxes!); and television viewing rooms where western material was not available for viewing.

As an observant person you will have noticed the pictures of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il hanging at the front of every room pictured and how desks are aligned such that visitors merely need to look up for the ‘heavenly guidance’ of Leaders past, though eternal. Speaking of things heavenly, I was rather surprised to hear that US evangelist Billy Graham once visited the Study House. I doubt if he would have found much literature here to his liking.

For a building that has, according to our guide, around 12,000 visitors per day it was remarkably empty during our visit. Perhaps they were all in rooms 1004 and 2012.

On completing this part of the tour we were guided into the bookshop/café on one of the upper floors. To be honest there was not a lot of interest here and we quickly made out way out onto the balcony which overlooks Kim Il-sung Square and which generally affords wonderful views across the city. My last picture in Part One of this review is the view down into Kim Il-sung Square with the Juche Tower in the background just across the river.
Books in the Library!
Reading Room
Language Laboratory
Music Appreciation Room
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wabat wabat
160 reviews
Grand People’s Study House (Part 1) Feb 12, 2017
In the first part of this two part review I will comment on the building itself and the first floor (or more precisely the floor that we entered on as it may or may not be deemed the first floor of this ten story building). In part two of the review I will guide the reader through the resources available within the Study House.

One of the most striking buildings in downtown Pyongyang is the Grand People’s Study House built in traditional Korean style – a welcome relief to me from the more common Soviet style architecture found in the city. It is one of numerous structures built in 1982 in celebration of Kim Il-sung's 70th birthday and was, reportedly, ‘started under the wise initiative of Dear Comrade Kim Jong-il and under his attentive guidance it was completed in a year and nine months”.

Situated at the rear (away from the river) of Kim Il-sung Square, it serves as a backdrop for speeches, military parades and other events held in the square. With its large pictures of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il (picture 1) it is reminiscent of Tian'anmen Gate and Mao’s image on the northern side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The Grand People’s Study House is a 600 room library and centre of Juche studies for ‘the people’ enshrining and promoting Kim Il-sung's educational philosophy of 'study while working', not to mention promoting a greater respect and love for the Kim family. Our guide informed us that by way the most popular topic of study and research here is Kim Il-sung's Juche Idea (or self reliance philosophy). It is no coincidence that the Juche Tower is in direct line of sight across the river from the Study House (picture 5).

On entering the Study House our first duty was to pay our respects to Kim Il-sung by bowing in front of his imposing white granite statue positioned in front of a mosaic picture of Mt. Paekdu just inside the entrance of the building. I draw the readers special attention to this statue (picture 3) as it is the largest of many such indoor statues in North Korea which the visitor is allowed to photograph. As such, hopefully it gives the reader an inkling of many more (larger and much grander ones) which we were not permitted to photograph. The white colour of this and most of the other larges statue located in otherwise empty rooms invariably brought a slightly ghostly and eerie feeling to me.

Having completed our duty here we moved into a grand lobby area with retro-Soviet chandeliers and marble Romanesque columns. On display here was a large collection of pictures depicting the activities of the current leader Kim Jong-un. The majority of the display recounted his tours of the country though pictures of him giving guidance in factories, in workplaces, to the army and to farmers. I found this (temporary) display very interesting and would like to have had more time here. It was particularly interesting to see how everyone seems to hang onto every word the Leader utters as he travels around. Of course, not to do so would have consequences.
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