Photographer's Note

When in North Korea, foreign visitors will often be asked to pay homage to the Great Leader President Kim Il Sung. This will usually be done at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where Kim Il Sung’s body is embalmed in a glass coffin, but many homages are also made at the enormous bronze statue of Kim Il Sung outside the Korean Revolution Museum. As it is not permitted to take pictures inside the palace, I can only post this picture of the statue at the museum. You can see how large the statue is from the group of people walking back after laying a wreath.

Visiting the Kumsusan Memorial Palace to pay homage to Kim Il Sung is quite an experience. Entry is through a long passageway which has the longest travelator that I have seen in my life. I was advised by my guides that it was installed at the initiative of the Great Leader General Kim Jung Il so that visitors would not get tired when walking to the palace. “The great leader is always thinking of the comfort of his people”, one of my guides said. At the end of the passageway, visitors have to step on a slowly-moving conveyor belt that takes them through an x-ray machine which is like a giant version of the machines that x-ray baggage at airports (heavens know how many millirems of radiation I received) and then through a room where powerful jets of air are directed on your body (maybe that’s to blow off any germs that have been killed by the x-rays). If you are a female visitor, I recommend you do not bother getting your hair done before the visit, because there won’t be anything left of your hairdo when you emerge from the blower room.

Then you enter the palace proper, and walk the length of a very large hall, at the end of which there is a statue of Kim Il Sung, a little smaller than the one outside the Revolution Museum, against a beautifully lit pastel coloured backdrop, with soft music playing. I was advised that I should pause in front of the statue, and look somber, but not bow at that point. However, my guide said “If you feel it is necessary to wipe a tear from your eye, that is permissible”.

After standing before the statue, visitors are then led into the darkened hall where Kim Il Sung lies in state. The North Koreans have done a great job of embalming their eternal president. He looks like he is just sleeping. As the guards direct the line of visitors to make a complete circuit of the coffin, you are required to bow three times, once on each side and once at the bottom. The hall is very quiet, but you can hear the sounds of some of the women visitors sobbing (not the foreigners, the North Korean women that is) and as you emerge, most of the Korean women will be wiping tears from their eyes.

PP: This photograph was shot in the middle of the afternoon under very bright light, and was very contrasty, so I had to play around with the levels quite a lot and reduce the black output. Other than that it was just sharpened.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1231 W: 108 N: 2568] (7797)
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