The Pyongyang Arch of Triumph is a gigantic monument located near the center of the city. The arch, modeled in a similar style to the one in Paris, is designated to commemorate North Korea’s resistance and liberation from Japanese rule. The structured is always visited on tours to North Korea following a ride on the Pyongyang Metro, with tourists getting off at Kaeson Station where the arch is located. On rare occasions, groups may be allowed to enter inside the arch itself, which contains elevators, viewing platforms and a small theater room which displays videos related to the war against Japan.
The Pyongyang Arch of Triumph should be understood within light of the “story” which gives legitimization and purpose to the country itself, that being the founding of North Korea in light of resistance to Japanese colonialism. The regime has placed a great deal of emphasis on creating the wider narrative that Kim Il Sung was triumphant in ousting the Japanese through guerrilla warfare and in turn created an independent state, initiating the Korean revolution. This monument celebrates that war placing emphasis on the years 1925 to 1945, the former date being the year the defunct Korean Communist Party was founded, military activities against Japan began in Manchuria, and about the time Kim Il Sung is purported to have begun his work (at apparently 14 years old!). This official date puts it at contrast with South Korean narratives of Korean resistance to Tokyo, which instead place emphasis on the March 1st Movement of 1919.
With this inevitable emphasis upon Kim Il Sung’s own legacy, the Pyongyang Arch of Triumph was constructed for his 70th birthday in 1982 and revealed on that date. It is built with over 25,500 bricks and pieces, which represent each day of the leader’s life up until that point. Inside, the “song of general Kim Il Sung” is inscribed upon the walls. Given this, the structure is not only commemorative of a country and its historical legacy, but a specific individual too, a man who is rendered inseparable and indistinguishable from the conception and story of North Korea itself. Regardless, the Arch makes impressive viewing.