Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum
Yongung Street, Pyongyang, North Korea
Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Pyongyang Reviews
Korean War Military Hardware Display Feb 12, 2017
This is the second of a series of five reviews on the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Complex. If you have not already done so, please read my introductory review on the complex before continuing.
The basement of the former Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum was packed with military equipment including captured US and UN forces tanks, planes, weapons and munitions, as well as examples of North Korean military equipment used during the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War.
Guides used to tell visitors that the US equipment was placed in the basement such that ‘It would never see the light of day again’. Well guess what? With the building of the new Museum this equipment is now displayed outside and very much ‘in the light of day’.
Hidden away on either side of the long walkway to the Victory Statue and the main Museum building are two ‘reconstructed’ trenches. The trench on the left hand side, facing the Museum, is filled with North Korean equipment used during the Korean War while the equipment of the US and its other imperialist allies is exhibited in the covered trench on the right hand side.
Having been introduced to our Korean People’s Army guide we (as are all tourists) were escorted to the trench containing US war paraphernalia either captured during the War or left as wreckage following the US defeat in the Korean War. We were not taken to see the North Korean equipment but that is not what you come here to see, anyway.
While our guide clearly had great pride in these trophies of war and delighted in showing them to us that pride and delight paled into insignificance when it was time to visit the the USS Pueblo – the country’s most treasured war (Cold War) trophy and an ongoing embarrassment to the United States almost 50 years after its capture by North Korea in 1968. More on that in my next review.
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Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Feb 12, 2017
This is the final of a series of five reviews on the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Complex. If you have not already done so, please read my introductory Complex review before continuing.
This impressive museum displays the history of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War through the eyes of the DPRK and pulls no punches in doing so. Do not expect a balanced picture, you will not get it. This museum is all about glorifying the Great Kim Il-sung and berating North Korea’s imperialistic enemies, the United States and Japan.
It is a vast building with around 30 exhibition halls and over 80 showrooms.
While I felt that the Monument to Victorious Fatherland Liberation War and the exterior of the building (just look at those murals) were both amazing in terms of making statements I can only describe the scene on entering the doors of this museum as jaw dropping. It’s like entering a totally different world (where, alas, photography is strictly prohibited). Inside the doors I was met with sheer opulence and grandeur on a scale I have seen nowhere before. One steps into the most grand entry hall of beautiful marble, sweeping staircases, columns, carved balconies and a low drop chandelier, all of which are outshone (if that is possible) by a massive illuminated wax figure of a youthful Kim Il-sung, in the spitting image of the current Leader, his grandson, Kim Jong-un. Having been let take the scene in, our guide’s first words was to let us know that the wax figure was Kim Il-sung and not Kim Jong-un. Everyone gets its wrong apparently.
Once we had paid our respects to the Great Leader by bowing, our guide explained that we would only have time to see a very small part of this large museum. As such, we would concentrate on the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War and on Kim Il-sung’s guidance, counsel and leadership which lead to the defeat of the US and North Korea’s victory in that war. We did not have time to look at that part of the museum devoted to the period of Japanese occupation and Kim Il-sung’s successful and heroic struggle to relieve Korea of that awful yoke.
Heading up one of the sweeping staircases to the display areas afforded us even more amazing views back down onto the entrance area and the Great Leader’s wax figure.
Setting aside the content of what was on show, the museum is world class in every way. It is very professionally laid out utilising all methods of modern display. No expense has been spared in delivering the DPRK’s version of the truth to visitors. For me, the most amazing and interesting displays were the seemly endless dioramas (life-like models) of battle scenes, battle terrains and the like. They ranged from small scale models to life-size reproductions. One of the latter enabled us to walk through a steamy jungle and an arctic like mountain terrain reminding us of the harsh conditions in which heroic and loyal North Koreans had fought against imperialist enemies.
Despite the fact that there is little or no English labelling within the museum, I veered away from the guide (though still within an acceptable range!) and perused the displays without interpretation. Having been in North Korea for a number of days at this stage I had already amassed enough patriotic, revolutionary and Kim glorifying language such that I could have guided the group through the museum myself so our guide from the Korean People’s Army wasn’t going to add anything we had not already heard and I assume she didn’t.
Without doubt, the most impressive exhibit in the museum (after we had stopped for a rather tasteless ice-cream in the small museum snack bar) is the huge revolving, hand painted 360 degree battle diorama /panorama depicting the Battle of Taejon – an early battle (July 1950) of the War in which North Korea claims to have routed the United States. You enter the dome containing the panorama from below and sit in the centre while the panorama revolves around you. The area (many metres) between where you sit and the painted back walk is filled with three dimensional models and more artwork such that the whole display, including the back wall, appears in the most amazing 3D giving you what appears to be kilometres of depth of vision. This, already amazing landscape, is further brought to life by a light and sound display which includes flashing bombs and artificial smoke. No, it is not at all tacky, it is amazingly well done.
While photography is not permitted in the museum, an authorised 360 degree panoramic tour of part of the building (including the entrance and the Taejon Battle Panorama) is available at – http://www.dprk360.com/360/victorious_fatherland_liberation_war_museum/. A look at this will make up for my inadequate descriptions above. Also on this site are various other interesting 360 degree panoramic tours and photos of North Korea. I strongly recommend you have a look.
For the information of readers who might have previously visited the former museum, all the captured/wrecked US military hardware displayed in the basement of that museum such that ‘It would never see the light of day again’ is now displayed outside, very much ‘in the light of day’ along either side of the grand walkway up to the entrance of the new museum.
While some of the claims made here are a little outlandish, and some hideously so, my visit to this museum was one of the highlights of my visit to North Korea.
Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Complex – Introduction Feb 12, 2017
This is the first is a series of five reviews and provides some general information on the Museum complex and a brief summary of the outcome of the Fatherland Liberation War (the Korean War), from the North’s perspective, obviously.
In preparation for 60th anniversary celebration of the Fatherland Liberation War Victory Day in 2013, Leader, Kim Jong-un ordered the refurbishment (essentially rebuilding) of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. In practice this resulted in a new building being built just across the river from the old one though part of the display (an amazing diorama) remains in the former building and is accessed by an enclosed walkway across the river (see layout picture below – top right).
Thus was created this major museum complex encompassing the extraordinary Museum itself, the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War and an outdoor display of military hardware. While the Museum has a section relating to the period of Japanese occupation of Korea, and a number of other displays, its primary focus is the Korean War (1950-53) – or the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War as it is called in North Korea.
Again unrelated to the Korean War, also located here is North Korea’s major Cold War trophy – the captured USS Pueblo (also refurbished for 2013).
In various of my Panmunjom reviews I include additional detail on the Fatherland Liberation War so suffice to say here that North Korea deem the Armistice Agreement signed on 27 July 1953 as the capitulation/ surrender of the US and South Korea and, as such, North Korea won the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War. All that remains to be done now is the removal of imperialistic US Forces from the south of the peninsula and its reunification. Outside North Korea it is generally held that Korean War (never referred to as the Fatherland Liberation War) hostilities ended in a stalemate on the signing of the Armistice Agreement in Panmunjom. Legally and technically the War continues as a peace settlement remains to be agreed upon.
We entered the complex through the very grand entrance depicted in my first picture here. This entrance was constructed in 1993 as part of the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War (often abbreviated to the War Victory Monuments) which opened in that year. Some additions (eg the brown tiles behind the military bronzes and the brown trim around the top) were made to the entrance in the 2012 renovation. The dates 1950 and 1953 inscribed on either side of the entrance represent the year in which the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War commenced and the year it ended – in victory for North Korea.
About 50 metres inside the entrance – flanked at some distance by two more massive monuments – we came to a bronze layout map for the complex (picture 4).
Looking from here the main Museum is the large (though it looks small from this distance) building in the distance and all the statutory you see forms part of the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Off to the right and left and, from this point, not visible are trenches exhibiting former Korean War military hardware. The USS Pueblo lies off to the right, and again is not visible from this point.
Having had a look around the complex entrance area all we needed now was our specialist guide for our visit to the Museum – a member of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), whom we were allowed to photograph – so we did!
Having met our KPA guide (picture 5) and been given a general overview of the complex it was time to have a look at some military hardware. Do join me in the trenches!
Greatest Trophy of War – The USS Pueblo Feb 12, 2017
This is the third of a series of five reviews on the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Complex. If you have not already done so, please read my introductory Complex review before continuing.
While unrelated to the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War, this captured United States spy ship is moored on the river just behind the display of captured and wrecked US military hardware from the Korean War. This Cold War relic is, in terms of war trophies, North Korea’s number one.
The USS Pueblo was captured, accused of spying, on 23 January 1968 off the east coast of North Korea, near Wonsan. One US officer was killed during the capture and 82 men, including Commdr. Lloyd M Bucher were taken prisoner. The fact that only a small percentage of the classified material aboard the ship was destroyed probably saved the lives of the crew.
Our guide explained what happened next. The US demanded the return of the crew and ship and backed this demand up with mobilisation of the US Seventh Fleet on North Korea’s shoreline. This audacious and provocative action was countered with the announcement by Kim Il-sung on 8 February that North Korea would fight and the army had been mobilised with this in mind. The US withdrew in silence. Unlike Krushchev, during the Cuban missile crisis, Kim Il-sung did not yield to blackmail and would go on to win the day.
Little North Korea had brought the mighty US to its knees, something, with all its power and might, the Soviet Union had not been able to do.
The North Koreans scored a massive propaganda coup on 23 December 1968 when the US Government admitted the violation of North Korea’s territorial waters and published a written apology in exchange for the return of the 82 prisoners and the remains of the dead officer.
North Korea refused to return the ship and has retained it as a war trophy to this day while it officially remains a commissioned vessel of the United States Navy.
Our visit to the USS Pueblo began with an admittedly very biased documentary on the incident. This was followed with a tour of the ship where the guide pointed out bullet holes at the spot where the US officer was killed and showed us the espionage and radio equipment, US Army manuals and maps that the US had used to enter and spy on the country in this unforgivable violation of North Korean sovereignty.
This is not the first US ship to have been lost to the North Koreans. In 1866 US warship, the General Sherman, was destroyed and all its crew killed after it sailed up the Taedong River seeking to engage in trade and land missionaries in the country, against the expressed wishes of the Korean imperial court.
The US account of the Pueblo Incident, as it is often called, not surprisingly, differs from the above and is readily available online for those who wish to read it.
Having been reminded once again (though now nearly half way through our tour of North Korea no-one had forgotten due to constant reminding) of the evils of the US on board the USS Pueblo it was time to admire a series of sculptures making up the Monument to Victorious Fatherland Liberation War (the Korean War).
Monument to Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Feb 12, 2017
This is the fourth of a series of five reviews on the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum Complex. If you have not already done so, please read my Introductory Complex review before continuing.
Prior to the addition of the Museum, the military hardware displays and the USS Pueblo in 2012 this site was dedicated to the Monument to Victorious Fatherland Liberation War which encompasses all the monuments you see, including the grand entrance to the whole complex.
The Monument was opened on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War) on the 27th July 1993. Inside the entrance, to the left, you can see a large granite plaque containing a dedication of the Monument to the “Korean People’s Army and Korean people who defeated the US imperialists and its allies during the Fatherland Liberation War” signed by Kim Il-sung.
The victory/victorious aspect of the Monument comes from that fact that North Korea holds the view that it won the Korean War and, as such, the 27th July 1953 is often referred to as Victory Day.
The bronze monuments here are colossal and in the classic soviet realist style. The central monument (main picture) – the Victory Sculpture – depicts a triumphant North Korean soldier while the remainder of the bronzes depict scenes from important (to the North Koreans) battles which took place during the War.
Having admired these colossal monuments it was time to enter the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum itself.
Museum about the Korean War, North Korea style May 05, 2010
This museum is like the Korean Central History Museum a display of altered history, the view of history by the North Koreans.
We got a tour by a female junior corporal, with Ms. Han being the translator. The museum was a big building, and the rooms were filled with how the fight for indepence against the japanese invasion and the Korean War happened and ended.
Of course it was an one-sided story, as the various displays and paintings showed the victorious ways of the North Korean Army during both wars.
We went to a room to watch a diorama scene of a military convoy. Apparently, the US Army had destroyed a bridge and a North Korean supply convoy was unable to deliver supplies and troops to the front. But local villagers used their backs and arms to support the remains of the bridge, which allowed the convoy to pass overhead. Did it actually took place?
The show was nicely set up though, with a detailed diorama, bombastic music, battle noises, explosions and light effects. And the voice gave it that bit extra drama.
We were also taken into rooms where many weapons, military vehicles and tanks were on display, most of them belonging to US troops.
The museum was certainly worth a visit, only to see how North Korea views the war and how they inform the people of what happened.
As all the visits to the various sites were included in the tour, it was unknown to me about the costs. That's why I made them free.
(Note: pictures that show a * haven't been taken by me)
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