Music, Theatre, and Performance in North Korea

TOUR OVERVIEW

Music, theatre and performance has for decades played a key role in North Korea’s political system as a way for the state to package and transmit party policy and ideology, and present it to the masses in an accessible, consumable form.

This tour provides you with an opportunity to explore this dynamic on the ground in North Korea. It includes opportunities to view North Korean musical and dance performances and revolutionary opera, and is intended for anyone with an interest in North Korean culture.

Basic lessons in music and dance will be included, and those interested in further study of these can contact us to organise a specialised private tour. The tour will be supplemented with some of the classic leisure/sightseeing activities in North Korea.

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

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the unique dynamics of performance through visits to key music and performance venues in the  DPRK
  • Take music lessons from DPRK expert musicians
  • See a DPRK revolutionary opera (tentative)
  • Visit the historic DMZ, which divides north and south

ITINERARY DETAILS

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

SATURDAY

PYONGYANG

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…

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DAY 1 – SATURDAY – 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 beging Saturday itinerary…

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DAY 1 – SATURDAY – Dandong departure travellers
8 AM – Meet Tongil Tours staff and fellow travellers joining group from Beijing extension train at Dandong Railway Station. Pre-briefing Dandong departure travellers. DPRK visas and train tickets distributed at this time.

10 AM – China exit procedures in Dandong, followed by DPRK entry procedures in Sinuiju.

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

SATURDAY 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.

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.

Next we’ll celebrate our arrival with a visit to a local bar.

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.

Kumsusan Palace Of The Sun Pyongyang

SUNDAY

LEISURE DAY IN PYONGYANG

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. 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!’’

Munsu Water Park
A waterpark featuring indoor and outdoor sections with various waterslides, fountains, pools, diving platforms, children’s area, and other installations. A popular weekend leisure spot for Pyongyangites. Also features several restaurants and one of the best cafes in Pyongyang.

Dinner.

*** We may also be able to view a performance of the Korean People’s Army Merited Choir, but can only confirm this 100% closer to the date.

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.

Juche Tower Pyongyang

MONDAY

MUSIC DAY

Breakfast in hotel.

Kim Won Gyun Conservatory
We will tour the grounds of North Korea’s top music school and listen to a performance given by students.

Korean Traditional Instrument Lesson
Enjoy a basic kayagum lesson, a Korean traditional stringed instrument, somewhat like the harp.

Lunch.

Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace
Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace is a public facility where children can engage in a range of extra-curricular activities such as music, dance, calligraphy, embroidery, and computing. Visitors can take a tour of the facilities, meet children at their lessons, and view an impressive performance.

Moranbong Theatre
A theatre located in Moranbong Park. Features a Soviet-influenced neoclassical design. It is one of the oldest buildings in Pyongyang. State Symphony Orchestra performances can be attended here.

State Symphony Orchestra Performance
We will attend a performance of the DPRK’s premier orchestra.

Juche Tower
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.

Dinner.

Overnight in the Haebangsan Hotel.

Hanbok Chosonot North Korea Traditional Clothing

TUESDAY

theatre and performance day

AM – Breakfast at hotel

Visit May 1st Stadium, where the Arirang Mass Games were held.

Kim Song Ju Elementary School
A primary school located by the Taedong River in the heart of Pyongyang. Visitors can play table tennis with the children, see the school museum and facilities, and view a children’s performance.

Lunch.

After lunch, we visit the Mansudae Art Theatre, home of the Mansudae Art Troupe.

Kumsong School
A school for gifted children. We’ll take a tour and drop in on the music class.
We’ll then check out the fountain park adjacent to the theatre and take a little stroll around central Pyongyang.

Pyongyang Grand Theatre
We’ll tour the ground of this historic theatre before viewing a revolutionary opera performance

NOTE: Pyongyang Grand Theatre performance attendance is tentative. If opera performance is unavailable we will find an alternative such as a folk performance, puppet performance, stage play performance or musical performance.

Dinner.

Overnight in Haebangsan Hotel.

WEDNESDAY

Kaesong & The DMZ

AM – Breakfast at hotel

After breakfast, we will begin the two-hour drive to Kaesong and the DMZ.

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.

Lunch
After driving back to Kaesong, we will enjoy a lunch consisting of local specialties.

Kaesong Schoolchildren’s Palace
Tour of the Kaesong Schoolchildren’s Palace, built in a unique neoclassical style with traditional Korean elements.

Sonjuk Bridge
Constructed in 1290, Sonjuk Bridge is a Koryo dynasty stone bridge located in central Kaesong City. It is well known as the site where famed Confucian scholar and statesman Chŏng Mongju was assassinated in 1392, generally believed to have been carried out under the orders of Ri Bangwon, son of the founder of the Choson Dynasty Ri Songgye because of Chŏng Mongju’s continued loyalty to the previous Koryo Dynasty. The bridge was closed to traffic in 1780 and made into a monument celebrating Chŏng Mongju’s loyalty. After viewing the monument, step out onto the street to get a glimpse of daily activity along one of central Kaesong’s bustling thoroughfares.
Before leaving Kaesong we’ll visit the stamp and postcard shop.

Tomb of King Kongmin
Completed in 1372, this is the tomb of King Kongmin, 31st king of the Koryo Dynasty and his wife, Mongolian princess and later Korean queen, Queen Noguk. Consisting of two burial mounds adorned with stone carvings and statues on the top of a hill outside Kaesong, the site offers a splendid scenic view of the surrounding countryside.

Drive to Sariwon, halfway between Kaesong and Pyongyang.

Sariwon Folk Street
A folk culture-themed street in downtown Sariwon adorned with traditional style gates, ponds and pavilions. Visitors can see reconstructions of some of Korea’s most famous traditional structures and cultural artifacts. Usually a popular spot for locals to engage in leisure. Climb the hill behind the park for a great view of Sariwon City.
Drive back to Pyongyang.

Dinner.

We’ll view a theatre stage play performance at East Pyongyang Theatre.

Overnight in Haebangsan Hotel.

THURSDAY

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 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, Friday – 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
  • Military Orchestra ticket, €20 euro
  • 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.