History of North Korea Tour: from Tangun to Kim Il Sung

TOUR OVERVIEW

Are you a history buff? Then this educational North Korea tour is for you. This tour will take you to all the main historical sites in North Korea to learn about the region’s history, from the ancient to the modern.North Korea is dotted with historical sites, some of them as old as two thousand years. These valuable relics have played significant roles in Korea’s history, and have fascinating historical backstories behind them too. Yet they are relatively unknown to Westerners, and rarely visited on standard tours to North Korea. But on this unique tour, you’ll be one of the few to discover these amazing lost treasures as we make this literally historic journey.

Major areas of interest include Pyongyang and its ancient historical sites such as Koguryo ruins,
Choson Dynasty pavilions and modern socialist revolutionary sites such as Kim Il Sung’s birthplace
and the Korean Central History Museum. In Nampo we will visit the famous Koguryo tombs at Anak.
In Kaesong we will visit the remains of the Koryo Dynasty such as the Confucian Academy and the
city wall.

The itinerary will be supplemented with visits to some of North Korea’s best cultural and leisure
facilities.

This tour will be accompanied by a Korean-speaking Western Tongil Tours guide with an academic
background in Korean history.

Tour Highlights

  • FRIDAY OCT 5th to FRIDAY OCT 12
  • Tour starts and concludes in Beijing, China
  • Options for round trip flight from Beijing, and to join the trip from Dandong, China.
  • When leaving by train, a one night extension for stopping in Sinuiju is also possible.
  • See Party Founding Day holiday celebrations on the 10th of October

ITINERARY DETAILS

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

FRIDAY

PYONGYANG

DAY 0 – THURSDAY – 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 Friday itinerary…

——-

DAY 1 – FRIDAY – Beijing-Pyongyang plane travellers
10 AM (Beijing time) – Assemble at Koryo Air flight counter in Beijing International Airport Terminal 2 before taking Air Koryo flight JS 152 to Pyongyang at 12:55 PM. A Tongil Tours staff member will be ready to meet participants and deliver tickets and visas, and give a briefing session.

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

3:30 PM – Estimated time of arrival in Pyongyang. Upon arrival, meet our Korean guides at Sunan International Airport. Head into Pyongyang and begin itinerary…

 

FRIDAY PYONGYANG ITINERARY

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.

Dinner. Following dinner, celebrate our arrival with a visit to a local bar.

Overnight in the Haebangsan Hotel.
Free time to use any of the entertainment facilities in the hotel (pool/billiards room, karaoke, shop etc.) or retire early for the night.

Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang North Korea with dancers

SATURDAY

LEISURE DAY IN PYONGYANG

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.

LUNCH

Pyongyang Metro
Containing 16 stops and two lines, the Pyongyang Metro is one of the deepest subway systems in the world. First constructed in the 1960s, it displays a similar grand style to its predecessor in Moscow, with stops featuring elaborate murals, mosaics and sculptures alongside ornate pillars and chandeliers. Visitors can descend into the subway down an escalator with a vertical depth of over 50 metres, and tour from stop to stop while riding in the subway trains alongside local passengers.

Arch of Triumph
One of Pyongyang’s most iconic monuments, the Arch of Triumph is larger than its Parisian predecessor at 60 m (197 ft) high and 50 m (164 ft) wide. Built to commemorate Kim Il Sung’s role in the Korean resistance to Japanese colonialism from 1925 to 1945, it was opened on his 70th birthday in 1982. It is built from white granite and decorated with various reliefs, inscriptions, and carvings.  Visitors can now enjoy the spectacular view from the top.

Moranbong Park
Moran Hill (“Moran” meaning “peony”), also known as “Moranbong”, 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, which constitute DPRK National Treasures #17-#22. 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!’

Dinner

Overnight in the Haebangsan Hotel.
Guests now have free time to use any of the entertainment facilities in the hotel (pool/billiards room, karaoke, shop etc.) or retire early for the night.

Martyr's Cemetery in Pyongyang, DPRK

SUNDAY

PYONGYANG HISTORY TOUR

Breakfast in hotel.

Korean Central History Museum
Located on Kim Il Sung Square, this museum deals with Korean history from prehistoric to early modern. It starts with the semi-mythological origins of Korean civilisation in figures such as Tangun, founder of Old Choson, and follows with the Three Kingdoms Period (1 st – 7 th centuries AD), Silla and Palhae (7 th to 10 th centuries AD), Koryo (10 th to 14 th centuries AD), Choson (14 th century – late 19 th century AD), and ending with early modern Korean history (late 19 th century – 1926). It contains interactive displays such as full sized reconstructions of some of Korea’s most well-known tombs.

Korean Revolutionary Museum
This museum deals with modern Korean history, from the 1920s onwards. Modern Korean history is marked as beginning when Kim Il Sung founded the “Down with Imperialism Union” in 1926. After that is the period of Anti-Japanese Armed Struggle, where Kim Il Sung and his guerrillas waged a war for Korean independence from their bases in Manchuria. The war was won in 1945 when Korea became free from Japanese colonial rule, and the museum covers all subsequent Korean history from the perspective of North Korean state historiography.

Lunch

Anhak Palace
The ruins of a Koguryo Palace in Pyongyang. The palace was built in 427 AD, and was a royal residence of the Koguryo dynasty after it had moved its capital to Pyongyang. The palace follows the
Chinese style, and marks the beginning of a period in which Korea began to model its political system of that on imperial China. Anhak Palace is DPRK National Treasure #2.

Taesongsan Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery
The cemetery where the remains of those who participated in the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle are interred. Bronze busts adorn each grave. The cemetery is constructed on a hillside and boasts a magnificent view of Pyongyang city.

After this we’ll attend a seminar on Korean history, delivered by a local history professor, at either Kim Il Sung University or the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences.

Dinner

Overnight in the Haebangsan Hotel.

MONDAY

PYONGYANG HISTORY TOUR, DAY 2

AM – Breakfast at hotel

Mangyongdae Native House
The humble thatched hut on the outskirts of Pyongyang where North Korea’s first leader Kim Il Sung was born and raised. Now a site of revolutionary pilgrimage and prominent North Korean cultural icon, visitors can see his family home and possessions and drink from the well. Usually busy with locals coming to pay tribute and take souvenir photos, especially on occasions such as the leader’s birthday and other public holidays.

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.

Lunch

Class Education Museum
Despite the somewhat misleading name, this museum is about American and Japanese atrocities towards Korea, from the 16 th century Imjin Wars (Japanese invasion of Korea under the shogun
Toyotomi Hideyoshi) and Japanese imperialism in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, to the General Sherman, a US merchant ship that came up the Taedong River without Korean permission in the 19 th century, to America’s involvement in the Korean War, and its continued aggressive posture towards the DPRK. Locals are brought here on study tours. This museum is mostly for a Korean audience, and rarely visited by Westerners. Thus, it is a good place to get a better idea of the state of history
education in the DPRK.

Friendship Tower
A 30m tall granite tower dedicated to the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army assistance to the North Korean Korean People’s Army in the Korean War. It is estimated that over three million Chinese served in the conflict, including both military and civilian personnel. Somewhere between 149,000 and 400,000 lost their lives on the battlefield. Visitors can enter the structure and see murals depicting the People’s Volunteer Army in Korea, together with over 20,000 names of Volunteer Army soldiers who fell during the War, including that of Mao Anying, Mao Zedong’s son, and other displays about Volunteer Army assistance during the War.

Chilgol Revolutionary Site
Located in Kwangbok Street, in the site where she was born, this is a revolutionary site dedicated to Kim Il Sung’s mother Kang Pan Sok, “an indomitable revolutionary and an outstanding leader of the Korean women’s movement”. Kang Pan Sok’s childhood home and other places associated with her childhood are preserved there. Visitors can also see a bronze statue of her with Kim Il Sung.

Ponghwa Revolutionary Site
Revolutionary site dedicated to Kim Il Sung’s father Kim Hyong Jik. See the area where Kim Hyong Jik engaged in revolutionary activities against the Japanese from 1916-1917. See his former house, the school he taught in as a teacher, and a revolutionary museum.

Party Founding Museum
The building where according to North Korean official histories, Kim Il Sung founded the Korean Worker’s Party. It has since been preserved as a museum to the history of the Korean Worker’s Party. The building is also architecturally significant as one of the few examples of Japanese colonial architecture left standing in Pyongyang after the Korean War.

DINNER

After dinner, we may head to local café for coffee, soft drinks or beer.

Overnight in Haebangsan Hotel

Mansu Hill Grand Monument Pyongyang

TUESDAY

Pyongyang History Tour, Day 3

AM – Breakfast at hotel

Taesongsan Fortress and Wall
The remains of a Koguryo dynasty wall and fortress from the 5 th century AD. Part of it has been restored. DPRK National Treasure #8.

Tomb of King Tangun
Tomb of the mythical founder of Korea’s first state Gochoson, King Tangun, who according to Korean accounts lived over 5,000 years ago. Features a grand stone ziggurat surrounded by
monuments and with a series of statues lining the path to the entrance. Visitors can enter the tomb and see the bones of King Tangun. DPRK National Treasure #174.

Lunch

Tomb of King Tongmyong
The tomb of King Tongmyong (58–19 BC), the founder of the ancient Korean state of Koguryo (37 BC–668 AD). DPRK National Treasure #36.

Sungryong Hall and Sungin Hall
Koryo dynasty shrines dedicated to Tangun, mythical founder of Korea over 5,000 years ago. Located in central Pyongyang. They are DPRK National Treasures #5 and #6.

Taedong Gate
A gate dating to the Koguryo Dynasty located along the Taedong River. DPRK National Treasure #4.

Ryonggok_Academy—Ryongaksan – Pobun Hermitage
We’ll go for a hike in the Ryongak Hills outside Pyongyang. At the top is a nice view of Pyongyang. There are also several sites of historical interest here. Pobun Hermitage is a Buddhist hermitage located in the hills and DPRK National Treasure #13. Ryonggok Academy is a Confucian Academy dating to the Ri Dynasty, and DPRK National Treasure #14.

Dinner

Overnight in Haebangsan Hotel.

Mansu Hill Grand Monument Pyongyang

WEDNESDAY

Kaesong & the DMZ

Today is Party Founding Day, a public holiday in the DPRK. We will spectate celebrations at some point during the day.

AM-Breakfast at hotel.

Today we’ll visit the city of Kaesong, once capital of the Koryo Dynasty. There are many sites of historical importance here dating back to when Kaesong was Korea’s capital. Many of them are UNESCO sites or UNESCO shortlisted. We’ll see the Kaesong City Wall—DPRK National Treasure #130, and the old Confucian Academy (Songgyungwan), which was once where young aristocratic men trained for the civil service. It has now been converted into a history museum about the Koryo period. We’ll see Sonjuk Bridge where the grandson of the founder of the Ri Dynasty, Ri Bang Won, assassinated famous scholar-official Jong Mong Ju for his continued loyalty to the Koryo dynasty, an episode which all Koreans both North and South learn about in history class. It is DPRK National Treasure #159. The Chomsongdae (astronomy tower) in Gyeongju in South Korea is well known, but it is not as well known that there is one in Kaesong as well, which we’ll visit. It is DPRK National Treasure #131.

Buddhism flourished during the Koryo Dynasty, and some of the old temples are still standing. We will visit Kwanum Temple, DPRK National Treasure #125, with its marble Buddha statue—DPRK National Treasure #156, and Anhwa Temple which is one of the few to have survived the Korean War completely unscathed, and Ryongtongsa, with its stone pagoda, which is DPRK National Treasure #133. We’ll also check out Taehungsan Fortress, part of the defences built to protect the old Koryo capital, nearby, and DPRK National Treasure #126.

We’ll wrap up with a visit to the Pakyon Falls, where one of Korea’s most famous poets and court entertainer Hwang Jin I used to spend much of her time. Even today Hwang Jin I’s poems are studied by Koreans when they study Korean literature in school. She’s also become the subject of a great many novels and films, including the only novel written in the DPRK to have won a literary prize in South Korea, Hong Sok Jung’s Hwang Jin I.

Overnight in the traditional-style Folk Hotel.

THURSDAY

Kaesong & the DMZ

AM- Breakfast at hotel

We start with a walk through Kaesong Old Town before visiting the DMZ and the Joint Security Area, which not only have important historical importance being the place where the Korean War armistice was signed, but are still politically relevant today with the tragic division of the country.

On the way back from Kaesong we’ll visit Songbul Temple and Jongbang Mountain Fortress – in Sariwon, which date to the 9 th Century A.D. Jongbang Fortress is National Treasures #88 (the south gate) and #89 (the fortress itself).

Lunch in Pyongyang.

We’ll then drive to Nampo where first stop will be Hwangryong Fortress, a well-preserved Koguryo Fortress. It is DPRK National Treasure #37. We’ll then visit two of the most important archaeological sites in all of Korea, the Kangso and Anak Tombs. These are tombs of Koguryo officials, and the wall paintings are well-known in both North and South Korea. The murals have helped scholars learn much about Koguryo aristocratic life, with vivid depictions of various scenes such as dancing, hunting, wrestling, and festivals. Particularly famous is the mural of four deities representing the four compass directions, the dragon, serpent-tortoise, white tiger, and phoenix. These are UNESCO world heritage sites, and the Kangso Tombs are DPRK National Treasure #28 and Anak Tombs are #67, #73 and #74.

Drive back to Pyongyang.

Dinner.

Overnight in the Haebangsan Hotel.

FRIDAY

Departure Day

AM – Breakfast at hotel

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

For Pyongyang-Beijing plane departures
AM – After breakfast, we drive to Sunan airport for Air Koryo JS 251 Y back to Beijing.

10:30AM (Pyongyang time) – Estimated departure time. Flight time – approximately two hours.

12 noon – Estimated arrival time. (Beijing time, half an hour earlier than Pyongyang time)
(tour officially closes for air travellers at this time in Beijing Capital Airport, terminal 2.)

PYONGYANG-DANDONG-BEIJING TRAIN TRAVELLERS continuing itinerary
Upon arrival in Dandong at 5pm, 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, following morning – Arrive in Beijing Station
(tour officially closes for Beijing train travellers)

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE ITINERARY: Upon arrival in Pyongyang, as with all travel to the DPRK, availability of activities on the above itinerary are subject to seasonal availability, last minute changes on the DPRK side, and many other factors. 95% of the time the itinerary above will run, but some activities may not be on some itineraries and will be replaced with comparable substitutes. Changes in itinerary are sometimes last minute, and determined in the moment, solely by our DPRK guides. Although we do our best to make sure that the itinerary is kept, Tongil Tours will not be held responsible for changes in the itinerary that are beyond our control, and all travellers to the DPRK should maintain an attitude of flexibility at all times.

FURTHER DETAILS
Pre-departure briefing / orientation
Either on the train or at some point before you enter the DPRK, we will walk you through some important points relating to the tour and allow you an opportunity for any questions. More details at time of booking.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:

  • Transport to and from Dandong or Beijing to Pyongyang. See booking details for transport options and pricing
  • Twin room lodging and accommodation in the DPRK (single supplement: €50/night)
  • 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 (see below)

Not included in the tour fee:

  • Round-trip airfare to Beijing from home country
  • DPRK visa fees and handling €65
  • 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.

  • Tips for the guides and driver (in total from each traveller), €5 euro per night stayed
  • Arch of Triumph elevator ticket (for those wishing to see the view at the top), €2.5 euro
  • 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.