Kumsusan Palace of the Sun western tourists foreigners mausoleum Pyongyang North Korea

Kumsusan Palace of the Sun western tourists foreigners mausoleum Pyongyang North Korea

One of the strangest days of all was our visit to the “Kumsusan Palace of the Sun”, or the mausoleum of the late leaders Kim il-Sung and Kim Jong-il. While we had some basic ‘rules’ to follow on our day-to-day basis (don’t wander too far from the group, pay your respects, etc.) you could tell that the guides were more tense than usual on this day. First, it was requested that we dress up. When we entered the mausoleum, we went through security (I was instructed to take my scarf off because it was too “casual,” apparently) and had to leave anything we were carrying behind – including cameras. From there, we took a MASSIVE sequence of slow-moving walkways and escalators to actually get to the heart of the building. While on the walkways, we were asked to whisper, not lean on the handrails, and stand still (as opposed to walking…like a normal person would do). For this reason, it felt like we were on the moving walkways FOREVER given little to do but whisper to our other tour group members or admire the numerous Kim-family portraits and photos lining the never-ending hallway. Eventually, we approached the low-lit hall that housed the bodies. First, we passed through a windy “sanitizer” and then we were ushered into the room where we were expected to bow, in groups of 4, at the feet, the left side, and the right side…skipping the head. As you can probably imagine, photos were not allowed inside, meaning that we only captured moments from the outside.

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