What is the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun?
Simply put, this is the most sacred place in North Korea. It serves as the resting place for the country’s two eternal leaders.
Originally built in 1976 as the Kumsusan Assembly Hall – it served as an official residence and office for North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.
Following his death in 1994, it was converted by his son and successor Kim Jong Il into a mausoleum. It was closed in 2011 after the death of Kim Jong Il and reopened almost a year later housing a completely new section for the second North Korean leader.
At over 10,000 square meters, it the largest mausoleum to a deceased leader in the world. At this time it was renamed Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. Kim Il Sung is referred to as the Sun of the nation and his name even means “become the sun”.
How to visit Kumsusan Palace of The Sun
Rocky Road Travel includes the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on most of our North Korea tour itineraries. Sometimes it closes for renovations from May to July, but other than that it is possible for foreigners to visit on any Thursday or Sunday morning.
It’s not a tourist site, so other more formal regulations need to to be adhered to when visiting. Visitors need to dress somewhat formally, so no open shoes or shorts. Relative silence must be maintained at all times.
The mausoleum complex is vast, so the visit can take at least two hours.
Guests line up and enter the building through an underpass, whilst being inspected on appearances. The first stop is the cloakroom where you’ll be asked to empty your pockets. Nothing can be brought inside the main building. From here guests embark on a lengthy travelator ride to get to the main hall. Somber music plays and portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il line both sides of the long corridors.
Guests then emerge in a giant hall containing lifelike statues of the two leaders flanked by the national and party flags.
Here visitors line up to bow before moving onto the separate chambers where both leaders lie preserved in glass sarcophagus. More bowing at three sides of the body is expected whist filing through each temperature controlled room.
After paying respects to the leaders you’ll be led through a sort of museum of accomplishments. See all the medals, awards and diplomas both leaders received in their lifetime, both domestically and around the world. They even have rooms dedicated to the vehicles used in their lifetime, such as boats, cars and even the train that Kim Jong Il passed away on. His office is still preserved the way he left it – Macbook Pro and all.
Do's and Dont's
It’s important to remember that this is no ordinary tourist place. This is the most sacred site in North Korea and visiting it similar to attending a funeral. It is governed by a specific set of rules and regulations, quite different to any other place in the country.
A strict level of behaviour should be kept from start to finish, and always make sure to listen attentively to your tour leaders for any rule changes.
On the way to the palace your local guides will go over all guidelines & rules with you. They’ll also guide you through the building the entire time.
- Make sure to stay with your group at all times during the visit.
- Bow when required. This will happen multiple times. If you’re not comfortable with bowing please let your tour leader know as far in advance as possible. That way we can arrange an alternative activity for you other than visiting the Palace.
- Photography is not permitted inside so you can leave all your belongings on the bus. If you want to take pictures outside in the main square then check your camera in at the cloakroom.
- Wear formal dress. Jeans, casual t-shirts, sneakers & shorts are not permitted. All shirts and jackets are too be buttoned up fully.
- Don’t talk loudly. Try and whisper or don’t talk at all. Remember – funeral levels of respect required.
- No chewing gum or smoking anywhere.
- Make sure to keep hands out of your pockets and always by your sides.
- Do not walk on the travelator. This is the time to reflect and receive instructions from your guides.
- Don’t run or sit anywhere. In the outer plaza do not walk on the grass.
If you are not prepared to adhere to these straight forward regulations, then we strongly advise against visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.
Kunsusan Palace of the Sun is located about 20 mins from central Pyongyang by bus. It’s at the foothills of Mt Taesong, nearby the Korean Central zoo and the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery.
After touring the palace we’ll typically head to nearby attractions before heading back to the hotel to change into something more casual before lunch.
Whenever it is possible to visit the palace on our North Korea tours, we’ll be there. Contact us to receive more info on travelling to North Korea!
When Shane is not endlessly writing award winning content for Rocky Road, he's usually kayaking to and from the beer garden along Berlin's River Spree.