The Aesthetics of Juche:
Art, Architecture & Urbanism
in North Korea
8 days | 7 nights in DPRK
SEPT 8-15 | 2018


The Tongil Tours’ Art, Architecture, and Urbanism of North Korea research tour is a fascinating look into the politics of aesthetics in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Rooted in the legacy of the Soviet Union as they came to help guide the fledgling nation when it was first divided, the socialist realist art and architecture of North Korea is famous for its bold style and its combination of many different historical styles, mediated through the Soviets.

This tour will be accompanied by one Korean-speaking Western guide from Tongil Tours with an academic background in Korean Studies. It will also be accompanied by two skilled local (Korean) guides from our DPRK partner company. Our Korean partners are personable, bilingual, and will do everything they can to bring you the best travel experience.

Tour Highlights

  • ENGAGE and NETWORK with DPRK artists, art professionals, and museum officials;
  • GO DEEP into the art, architecture & urbanism of North Korea;
  • SPEND EXTENDED TIME at the best museums, galleries, and art production schools and studios in the DPRK;
  • BE DIFFERENT: Get a travel destination in your portfolio that is very, very rare;
  • HAVE FUN: Pyongyang pub crawl, karaoke, souvenir shopping; make lasting friendships with others on tour;
  • BUILD FRIENDSHIPS and connections with the locals;
  • EXPERIENCE THE HISTORY of the DMZ, and learn in detail the North Korean perspective on the Korean War; stand at the northern side of the DMZ in Panmunjom, just metres away from South Korea;
  • TASTE the local liquors and beers; hang out in a Pyongyang pub;
  • Join in DPRK National Day celebrations on the 9th of September


Please note that minor changes in itinerary may apply for reasons beyond the control of Tongil Tours.



DAY 0 – FRIDAY – Beijing-Dandong-Pyongyang train travellers
4 PM – Meet Tongil Tours staff at Beijing Railway Station and get ready for the interesting and leisurely Beijing-Dandong overnighter. Be sure to stock up on snacks, water, and food for Friday night meal. Cafe and snacks available on board, though more expensive.

5:30 PM – Train departs. Dinner and drinks on train. Overnight aboard the train (sleeper bunks).

7 AM Saturday – Arrival in Dandong, transfer to Dandong-Pyongyang international train.

Arrive in Pyongyang in the afternoon, and begin Saturday itinerary.


10 AM (Beijing time) – A Tongil Tours staff member will be ready to meet participants in Beijing International Airport. Assemble at Koryo Air flight counter in Beijing International Airport Terminal 2 for quick briefing session before taking Air Koryo flight JS 152 to Pyongyang at 12:55pm.

12:55 midday – (Beijing time) – Estimated flight take off time. Flight time – approx. two hours.

3:30PM – (Pyongyang time, half an hour later than Beijing time) – Estimated time of arrival in Pyongyang.

PM – Meet our Korean guides at Sunan International Airport.

Half hour drive to Pyongyang.

Mansu Hill Grand Monument
The largest and most famous pair of bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il that can be found in each of North Korea’s major cities. They are situated on a hill in the centre of Pyongyang offering magnificent views of the city. The statues are 22 metres high and flanked on both sides by elaborate sculptures, one depicting Korea’s struggle for independence against Japanese colonialism, the other dealing with socialist revolution.


The Chollima Statue
A bronze statue featuring Chollima, the winged horse from Korean mythology with two riders. It was unveiled in 1961 to commemorate the country’s rapid post-war reconstruction efforts.

Drinks at a local bar to celebrate our arrival.

After checking into the Koryo Hotel, guests can make use of the hotel’s entertainment facilities which include a shop, bar, pool and billiards hall, karaoke room, or retire early for the night.



September 9 is National Day in the DPRK. We will fit celebrations into the itinerary, which will include Mass Dance events and possibly more.

AM – Breakfast in the hotel.

Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
The mausoleum where the bodies of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state. It is a grand, sprawling complex surrounded by a large square and a moat. Visitors see the bodies of North Korea’s former leaders and tour exhibition halls displaying their possessions. On display are also the train carriages and a boat used to the tour the country on “on-the-spot-guidance” visits.

Kim Il Sung University
Founded not long after independence in 1946, Kim Il Sung University is North Korea’s top university. Visitors can take a walk through the campus, visit the university museum, electronic library and swimming pool. The opportunity to meet students can also be arranged.

Kim Il Sung University Apartment Complex
An apartment complex built for the staff of Kim Il Sung University. A visit here will offer us a rare look inside a local residence.

PM – Lunch.

Mansudae Art Studio
North Korea’s top artistic studio. It is tasked with designing all of North Korea’s large monuments as well as the portraits, statues, paintings and murals featuring its leaders, which it alone has permission to produce. The artists here also create all kinds of other art and even even produce works for the international market. They work in sculpture, oil painting, Chosonhwa (a style that fuses traditional East Asian ink-painting with elements from Western oil painting), ceramics, and calligraphy. In our tour we’ll be able to view the workplaces of local artists, and chat with them about their work. We’ll also see the studio’s shop and gallery.

Party Founding Monument
A giant concrete monument consisting of three hands holding aloft a hammer, sickle and a brush, together representing the emblem of the Korean Worker’s Party. View the monument from the outside before stepping inside to see the bronze reliefs on the inside depicting the history of the Korean Worker’s Party and its role in the Korean socialist revolution.

Tower of the Juche Idea
Located along the banks of the Taedong River and opposite Kim Il Sung Square and the Grand People’s Study House in central Pyongyang, the Juche Tower is a monument dedicated to North Korea’s governing political ideology of Juche. The structure features a unique layered stone tower design topped with a torch which glows at night. A bronze statue of a worker, farmer and intellectual holding aloft the Korean Workers’ Party emblem decorates its base. Visitors can view the structure from the outside before entering to see the museum on the inside and taking an elevator to the top to enjoy a stunning view of Pyongyang.

After, we’ll go for a stroll down the Taedong River and cross the Okryu Bridge.

We will then make the one hour drive to Kaesong, near the DMZ.

We’ll check into the local Folk Hotel, where we’ll be able to stay in traditional style lodging. Dinner will be had in the hotel.

MONDAY, 10 SEPT 2018

National Day + Kaesong, DMZ and more Pyongyang

AM- After breakfast, we will take a stroll through Kaesong’s old town which dates back to the Choson dynasty. We will walk all the way up to the top of Janam Hill, where the city’s bronze statues of North Korea’s leaders are situated. Here, we will be able to command a wonderful view of the city centre and old town.

The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) at Panmunjom and the Joint Security Area (JSA)
Here tourists can visit the Armistice Talks Hall, the Armistice Signing Hall and Panmunjom Peace Village (also known as the “Joint Security Area”) from the northern side. At Panmunjom Peace Village it is possible to view the south from metres away at the balcony of Panmun Pavilion. Get right up to the border with South Korea, even technically cross it in one of the negotiation huts which lie between the northern and southern sides of the compound and are bisected by the border.

Koryo History Museum
This museum is dedicated to Kaesong’s past as capital of Koryo Dynasty Korea (which lasted from 919 to 1394 AD). Exhibits are housed in Kaesong’s former Confucian Academy (Songgyungwan), which was established in 992 AD and became the highest educational institution in Korea throughout the Koryo and Yi Dynasties. The present structures were built in the early 17th century.

Next, a quick visit to the postcard and stamp shop across the road- a good place for souvenirs. Postcards and stamps purchased here can be sent internationally once we return to Pyongyang.

After a lunch consisting of the Kaesong local specialty, we will drive back to Pyongyang.


Paektusan Architecture Institute
Here we will be able to learn about North Korea’s design practices and the urban planning of Pyongyang.

Moran Hill Park
Moran Hill (“Moran” meaning “peony”) in central Pyongyang forms a beautiful park which has been a popular leisure spot for locals since premodern times. Take a leisurely stroll through the grounds and enjoy the wonderful view of the Taedong River and centre of Pyongyang from Ulmildae and other Yi Dynasty pavilions atop the peak. On weekends and public holidays the park is full of picnicking Koreans engaged in drinking, song and dance. These are good opportunities to mix with the locals. Practice your best moves—you may be pulled into a dance!

Pyongyang Metro (extended tour)
The Pyongyang Metro is considered one of the deepest in the world. First built during the 60s and 70s, it displays a similar grand style to its predecessor in Moscow, some of the stops featuring elaborate murals, mosaics and statuary as well as ornate pillars and chandeliers. This visit will include a ride with the locals for several stops in one of the train carriages. This visit will not only include the commonly visited stops of Kaeson, Yonggwang and Puhung, but also Pulgunbyol, Chonu, Tongil, and Ponghwa.


Drinks in a local bar.

Overnight in the Koryo Hotel.



AM – Breakfast.

The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum
The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum is a museum dedicated to North Korea’s 1953 “victory” over the United States and its allies in the Fatherland Liberation War, commonly known as the Korean War in the West. Learn the history of the Korean War from the North’s perspective through elaborate museum displays and videos in the main hall, and see a grand panorama of the Battle of Daejon. By the entrance are war-themed monumental statues and displays featuring captured and downed American vehicles, tanks, artillery and planes. Visitors can also tour the USS Pueblo, which was in 1968 found in Korean waters and accused of being a spy ship, after which it was captured and taken to Pyongyang where it has been kept as a trophy ever since.

We will then visit Kim Il Sung Stadium and May Day Stadium. Kim Il Sung Stadium has a capacity of 50,000, and is commonly used to hold soccer matches. May Day Stadium has a capacity of 150,000 and is regarded as the world’s largest stadium.

PM – After lunch, we’ll view a revolutionary opera at the Pyongyang Grand Theatre.

Pyongyang Grand Theatre
Pyongyang Grand Theatre is done in a neotraditional style similar to the Grand People’s Study House. Our visit will include a tour of the exterior and interior.

Pyongyang Information Centre
A shop and office complex featuring an interesting, courtyard-centred design.

Next, we’ll go for a walk down Sungri (Victory) Street from Kim Il Sung Square to the Changjon Street Apartment Complex, and continue along the Taedong River back to Kim Il Sung Square.


Overnight in the Koryo Hotel.




AM – Breakfast.

Korean Art Gallery (extended tour)

The DPRK’s main art gallery situated in the heart of Pyongyang on Kim Il Square. Features permanent exhibitions of both premodern and modern art, divided into sections according to style (oil painting, Chosonhwa, sculpture etc.), and arranged chronologically, as well as temporary exhibitions, all covering three floors. During this special extended tour we will cover all three floors in detail, taking our time to analyse and discuss the works.

PM –  Lunch.

Three Revolutions Exhibition
Here, displays explaining the DPRK’s science, culture, and ideology can be viewed within a series of futuristic exhibition halls.

Grand People`s Study House
Unveiled in 1982 as the DPRK’s national library, it is situated in the heart of Pyongyang right on Kim Il Sung Square and built in an East Asian neoclassical style featuring multi-layered gabled roofs. View the exterior before taking a tour of the library facilities on the inside, before stepping out onto the balcony for a splendid view of central Pyongyang.

We will then make the three hour drive to the port of Wonsan on the country’s East coast.

We’ll check into the deluxe Masikryong Hotel and have dinner at a nearby restaurant.



AM –  Breakfast.

Songdowon Schoolchildren’s Camp
Where local and foreign children stay for summer camps.

Jangdok Islet and Pier
An island in Wonsan Bay with a small lighthouse. Walk up the long, snaking pier and rub shoulders with local fisherpeople, and see the stalls selling freshly caught seafood. Good views of Wonsan Bay.

Wonsan Square
Wonsan’s central square located right on the sea. Wonsan’s bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il can also be viewed here.

Kangwon Province Art Gallery
A small art gallery located by the seaside in central Wonsan. Consists of two rooms displaying locally made art in various styles: oil paintings, chosonhwa, calligraphy and sculpture. Some of the works can be purchased.

PM – Lunch.

Wonsan Agricultural University
Established in 1948, Wonsan Agricultural University’s 5 year program is the DPRK’s largest among agricultural universities. Tour the grounds, including the early 20th century constructed main building, lush outdoor areas and greenhouses. Pick-up soccer games can sometimes be arranged with the students.

Drive back to Pyongyang, stopping off at the Ullim Falls along the way.


Drink in a local bar.

Overnight in the Koryo Hotel.

FRIDAY, 14 SEPT 2018


AM – Breakfast.

Kim Won Gyun Pyongyang Conservatory
A top music academy where some of the nation’s finest musicians are trained.

Chongchun Street Sports Village
Features a series of sports complexes, each constructed in a unique style during the late 1980s.

Pyongyang Architecture University
Where the country’s future architects are trained.

PM – Lunch.

We will then visit a local Middle or High School, where we will be given a tour of the grounds and then drop in on an English lesson where we will be able to chat and interact with the students.

Then, we take a short walk down Kwangbok Street to sample some of Pyongyang’s residential architecture.

Kwangbok Street Shopping Complex
A large, multi-storeyed shopping complex located in the Kwangbok Street Residential District of Pyongyang. This shopping complex is extremely popular among locals and usually buzzing with activity. Here, visitors can exchange foreign currency for the local Korean won, and use it to shop for a wide range of domestic as well as some imported products. Ground floor contains a supermarket, 1st floor clothing and accessories, and 2nd floor a bustling food court. A great place to pick up interesting DPRK-made items and people watch.


Kaeson Youth Park
Open at night time and located right next to Pyongyang’s Arch of Triumph (“kaeson” means “triumph”) and Kim Il Sung Stadium at the foot of Moran Hill park, Kaeson Youth Park is perhaps Pyongyang’s most popular amusement park. Here you can try out six heart-racing rides including a vertical drop, “belly down” rollercoaster and pendulum. You can also ride the bumper cars, have a snack at a food stall or restaurant, or visit the game centre. A good place to rub shoulders with the locals.



For Pyongyang-Dandong train departures
10AM – Departure from Pyongyang Train Station.
5PM – Arrival in Dandong Station
(tour officially closes for Dandong only travellers)

Upon arrival in Dandong at 5pm Thursday, you will transfer to your Dandong-Bejing overnight train, on which you will have dinner, as well as breakfast the following morning before arrival in Beijing. Cafe car, snacks and water available on train.

7AM, Sunday– Arrive in Beijing Station
(tour officially closes for Beijing train travellers)


AM – After breakfast, we drive to Sunan airport for Air Koryo JS151 back to Beijing.

9:00AM (Pyongyang time) – Estimated departure time. Flight time – approx. two hours.

10:30AM (Beijing time, half an hour earlier than Pyongyang time) – Estimated arrival time.

We conclude our journey in Beijing Capital Airport, Terminal 2.


Beijing Night Out, and Pre-departure Briefing
To ensure the best possible experience for all involved, we’ll have a dinner in Beijing the day prior to tour departure when we will go through some important points relating to the tour and allow an opportunity for any final questions. For anyone who can’t make it, we can quickly brief you before departure in Beijing at the airport.

Pre-departure email
Before departure, we will send out a pre-departure email with general information to note for the trip such as what to pack, and other important information.

Optional reading list
With all of our tours, we send our participants an optional reading list (consisting mostly of items either free for view on the internet, or that will be shared with participants) to assist travellers in contextualising their North Korea travel experience. This is sent to travellers after a booking has been finalised.

Optional academic briefing
As specialists in educational tourism to the DPRK, we firmly believe in delivering an experience that is not only fun, but also allows travellers to learn a little about the country. We can arrange for academic experts in North Korean studies to conduct a 90 minute academic seminar over Skype. Contact us for more information.

Included in the tour fee:

  • Round trip train ticket from Beijing to Pyongyang
  • DPRK visa fees and handling
  • Twin room lodging and accommodation in the DPRK (single room surcharge- €40 euro per night, also payable in AUD, USD, or RMB)
  • Three meals a day in the DPRK (excluding optional meals in out of pocket restaurants)
  • All transportation in the DPRK
  • Local English-speaking DPRK guides
  • Korean-speaking Western academic guide from Tongil Tours
  • Most admission fees

Not included in the tour fee:

  • Round-trip airfare to Beijing from home country
  • Beijing hotel accommodations
  • Chinese visa fees and processing (if necessary)
  • Travel insurance and medical evacuation insurance (required)
  • Gifts, souvenirs, snacks, hotel services, miscellaneous purchases
  • Extra drinks during meals (one complimentary beer and bottled water included with most meals)
  • Out of pocket expenses (see below)

Out of pocket expenses
These expenses are not included in the tour fee. It will be necessary to bring a little extra in cash – either Chinese yuan, Euros, or US dollars, into North Korea to pay for these expenses on the day. Prices are listed in euros, but may also be payed in USD or RMB. Note that prices are subject to change.

  • Kaeson Youth Park ticket, €20 euro. Entry without going on the rides, €5 euro
  • Tips for the guides and driver (in total from each traveller), €5 euro per night stayed
  • Juche Tower elevator ticket (for those wishing to see the view at the top), €5 euro
  • Micro-brewed beer (a pint) – €2 euro approx.
  • Possibility for a visit to a café, Italian, hamburger, or other special restaurant – €7- €14 euro approx.
  • Revolutionary opera ticket €20 euro