Visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun – the last resting place of the two previous leaders of the DPRK, Kim Jong-Un’s father and grandfather – was perhaps the most memorable and tensest moment in all my travels to date. Not much compares to checking out the mausoleum of the two revered North Korean leaders. Unfortunately taking pictures was absolutely prohibited and next to impossible as there were eyes on you at all times, and you weren’t allowed to bring anything into the mausoleum, let alone your camera or mobile phone. When I say anything, I mean anything, you are thoroughly checked and warned, and you are not even allowed to bring your money with you. Anything you might have been carrying would be safeguarded at the bagage depot. These strict rules apply not only to your belongings but also to the way you dress: dress shoes, shirt and pants for the men. It is considered rude to roll up your sleeves, so definitely keep those down!
After multiple security checks (both through conventional means such as frisking and metal detectors, but also unconventional methods such as passing through a windy tunnel – I still don’t know what that was about), you enter a big hall with two horizontal escalators which very slowly deliver you to the end of the hall. This gives you more than enough time to check out the diverse gallery of pictures of the Kims and their various activities, with descriptions! But there was even more to admire, because we even saw some twenty, thirty Mercedes limousines closely following each-other, was Kim Jong-Un in one of them? He might very well have been, because he had visited the mausoleum that same evening.
This scene with the escalators repeats several more times until you stand in front of a big open room.
And behold, at the end of this room, two big statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. We are once again reminded to keep our shirt sleeves down and once we’ve comfortable lined up in rows of four people each, we move on to the statue, accompanied by some goose-bumping music. This is nothing short of impressive. At the end of the room, and thus at the foot of the statues, we are required to bow, and then move on.
After a few more beautifully decorated impressive rooms we stand in front of the room where Kim Il-Sung, the founding father of the country, has been laid to rest. The ambiance is slightly more tense in here. Once again we are ordered to stand in rows of four persons each, and we enter the big square hall where, in the middle, lighted up by red lights, and guarded by four impressive soldiers with AK-47’s, lies the embalmed body of the Eternal President of the DPRK, Kim Il-Sung. There was not much time to be awed by this impressive sight, because people were waiting to see this for themselves, so we did the mandatory 3 times bowing (all sides except for the head side) and moved on to the next room.
Which was a room meant for displaying the various trophies, medallions, diplomas and honorary citizen-ships awarded to Kim Il-Sung. While one could argue whether some of these prizes were really earned, and some of the trophies were given by questionable countries as well, this room was no less impressive. The same scenario repeated itself for the mausoleum room and trophy room for the late Kim Jong-Il.
We are then – slightly more relaxed – shown around a few spacious rooms containing the various vehicles the Kims used during their life. Cars, ships, trains, it’s all there. Trivia: there was actually a MacBook on the desk in the train in which Kim Jong-Il passed away!
To conclude this story, this was really the most impressive part of my trip to North Korea, perhaps indescribable in words, and even more so in photographs, because part of the magic of this place is that nobody can take photos there.
You have to see it to believe it!