Pohyon Temple in North Korea
A trip through North Korea certainly leads to the Myohyang Mountains in Hyangsan County in the north-east of the country. The scenic mountains were previously considered sacred and are associated with the founding of Korea. One of the program items on every study trip is the Palace of Friendship between Nations. The state gifts to the North Korean leaders since Kim Il Sung are exhibited behind a four-ton bronze door on an area of 20,000 square meters. Not far from there is the Pohyon Temple, a national shrine with many important sights.
History of the Pohyon Temple
The temple, built in 1042, was one of the largest centers of Buddhism and is a must-see on any study trip. It originally comprised 24 buildings and is home to the largest Buddhist shrine in North Korea. At the end of the 16th century, warlike monks fought against the Japanese invaders from here. The high priest Sosan initiated the reconquest of Pyongyang before returning to the Pohyon Temple, where he died in 1604 at the age of 85. Today 20 monks still live here. Large parts of the temple were destroyed during the Korean War and have been partially reconstructed since then.
Most of the buildings on the extensive site are located on an axis, the center of which is the Taeung Hall. This religious center is surrounded by green spaces in which there are other temples and shrines. While today the complex is entered by visitors through a side entrance, the access originally led along statues and steles through three magnificent gates.
Sights of the Pohyon Temple
Behind the third gate is the Manse Temple, a former meditation hall. In front of it is the nine-story Tabo Pagoda, built in 1044. Between the Manse Temple and the Taeung Hall, the 13-story Sokka Pagoda from the 14th century awaits the visitor. To the right of the Taeung Hall is the Kwanum Temple, the oldest building in the complex from 1449, which houses the Suchung Shrine in the eastern area. It is dedicated to the monks who opposed the Japanese invasion in 1592-1598. To the south of this shrine, instead of the original library, there is the temple archive. A copy of the Tripitaka Koreana awaits the visitor here, one of the oldest Buddhist scriptures still in existence from the 13th century in 6,000 volumes and with over 81,000 wooden printing blocks.
An ideological statement in concrete, bronze and marble – Pyongyang is the ultimate totalitarian metropolis, almost entirely rebuilt from scratch after its destruction in the Korean War. The big city with its 2,581 million inhabitants is a fascinating and at the same time inaccessible place where a busy population experiences their everyday life inaccessible to the visitors. The city is the cultural, political and economic center of the isolated country and the most important traffic junction. Pyongyang is home to the Mansudae Congress Hall, universities, various museums, theaters, as well as monuments, imposing buildings and squares.
Any visit to North Korea will focus heavily on the capital, Pyongyang. Your guides have outdone themselves here building monuments, towers, statues, and buildings that glorify Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. These include the 60-meter-high triumphal arch, which is three meters higher than the Paris model, the Chuch’e Tower and the huge Kim-Il-sung-Platz. This granite-covered square was built in 1954 and is 75,000 square meters in size. It is mainly used for political rallies and parades.
Notable pavilions and structures in the city include the Choesung Pavilion, a former observation post of the Korean People’s Army, the Chongnyu Pavilion, a remnant of the ancient city walls, and the Pubyok Pavilion with a view of the Taedong River. Another historical legacy of the city walls is the Ryongwang Pavilion, which is located directly on the Taedong River and offers a wonderful view. It was built in 1111, destroyed again and rebuilt in its current form in 1670.
While these squares and structures are all impressive if surreal, the real joys of Pyongyang can be found in the quieter moments when you can get a glimpse of everyday life. A leisurely stroll on Moran Hill in Pyongyang, for example, is a great opportunity to watch the locals have picnics, music, and lazy afternoons. Those who stroll through the streets between the sights will still find a semblance of normalcy in the capital. You just really have to look for it.
According to topschoolsintheusa, Kaesong is located in the south of North Korea. The big city, with its 300,000 inhabitants, is an industrial city, a cultural center with museums, theaters and universities and an important transport hub. Visitors to the city should note that it is forbidden to travel around the region without a tour guide. Nevertheless, there is a lot to discover and experience in North Korea and especially in Kaesong. These include ancient temples and the Koryo rulers’ tombs.
The Sonjuk Bridge near Mount Chanam is well worth a visit. The small stone bridge from 1216 is only 7 meters long and 2.5 meters wide. Yi Seong-gye, the third king of the Chosun dynasty and son of the first king of this dynasty, murdered his opponent Chong Mong-ju on this bridge in 1392. The Pyochung Pavilion was then built near the stone bridge, with panels from the 17th and 18th centuries depicting Chong Mong-ju’s allegiance to the Goryeo rulers. Kaesong Old Town is one of the best preserved in all of Korea, and traditional Korean-style buildings can still be seen today. A few kilometers from the city is the Sŏnggyungwan Academy area, where the Koryo Museum has been located since the 1980s. The museum, It is rich in history by informing visitors about the times of the Goryeo Kingdom. In the extensive park with a beautiful inner courtyard and ancient trees, many old stone monuments from different temples in the country are exhibited.
Kaesŏng was also known for the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a “special economic zone” developed by Hyundai Asan with North Korea. Today more than 10,000 North Korean workers worked in over a dozen brand-new factories of South Korean companies in this zone, which is said to serve free trade. South Korea withdrew from the special economic zone after a missile launch by North Korea believed to be a test of an ICBM for nuclear weapons. North Korea subsequently fired all South Korean workers and confiscated the plant, whereupon South Korea cut off the supply of electricity and water.