North Korea's national library at the centre of Pyongyang
The Grand People’s Study House, Pyongyang, North Korea
The stated purpose of the library is to be a centre of study for Juche Ideology (see below), science, technology, and the arts. It also serves as correspondence university for continuing education and research.
History and Background
Construction of the Grand People’s Study House started in December 1979 and took place over 1 year and 9 months before being completed in April 1982. This opening was to coincide with President Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday celebrations. The architecture of the building is Neo-traditional Korean Style, and the building is meant to be admired from all sides. It is located on Pyongyang's Namsan, or 'South Hill', located at the centre of historic Pyongyang.
The building of the Grand People’s Study House has a total floor space of over 100,000 square meters, has 10 stories and reaches almost 64 meters high. Inside the Grand People’s Study House, there are 21 reading rooms and 17 lecture rooms. These rooms are divided into 10 sections, depending on the contents of the room. There are 600 rooms in total. It is said that the Grand People’s Study House can hold up to 30 million books, and up to 10,000 eager students and adults per day.
It’s not called Grand for no reason.
The books and material you can find in the Grand People’s Study House include both DPRK produced material, and foreign papers. There are many documents and books that President Kim Il Sung himself wrote, with 'on the spot guidance'. Just like in a normal library, people use computers to search for the book or document they wish to view and see if it is available or already taken out. Locals also have access to the foreign publications, but must be granted permission before taking them out.
Locals can also use these computers inside the Grand People’s Study House to access the Korean Intranet. This is the local North Korean internet service that can be used within the country.
The Grand People’s Study House and Juche
This national library is also the national centre for Juche studies. Juche is the official ideology that North Koreans live by. With the view from the top of the Grand People’s Study House, you can see that its placement is no coincidence. In fact, it holds great significance. You can see how everything is carefully architecturally planned in the city as all of the main monuments and buildings line up. Most importantly, right in front of you is the Juche Tower. This placement is meant to represent and strengthen the relationship between people and the Juche ideology.
The Central Hall of the Grand People's Study House contains a marble statue of the President Kim Il Sung sitting in front of a mosaic of Mount Paekdu. The floor has an image of an azalea flower, a symbol the Korean revolution, made from twenty types of jades and crystals. The symbology of the space is similar to Pyongyang's Arch of Triumph, a monument also constructed for the 70th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung.
Paying a visit to the Grand People’s Study House is well worth its time. Upon entering the Grand People’s Study House, you’re met with a beautiful marble interior with large grand staircases, high ceilings, and magnificent chandeliers.
You will have a local guide take you around the various rooms, and it is a great opportunity to see the locals studying and learning hard. Most Koreans will come here during their university years, as it is a very peaceful place to study with many resources.
Feel free to talk to the locals, but try not to disturb their studies too much!
The various rooms you can see include the music room, lecture theatres, and classrooms. If you’re there at a time when a class is on, don’t be afraid to stand in front of the class and test the pupils’ knowledge! It is not uncommon to see language classes being practiced here. English, Russian, German, and Chinese are all common languages that Koreans study.
Excluding holidays, the Grand People's Study House is open from 0900 to 18:00 for general browsing. It is open 09:00 to 19:30 for specific lectures and class time with the exception of Saturday, Sunday, and holidays.
· There is no extra entry fee for the Grand People’s Study House. It is open to all citizens above the age of 17 for free.
· An electronic sign board inside the main library hall gives a list of the newest additions to the library collection and specific lecture/class times.
· Head to the top of the Grand People’s Study House and go to the balcony for some killer views of Pyongyang. Right in front of you, you will see Kim Il Sung Square and the Juche Tower. To the left hand side, you can see some new apartment buildings where teachers and intellectuals live.
· There is a small selection of souvenirs you can find on the top floor. This is also where the balcony view is - don’t spend all your time shopping and make sure you get that great view from the Grand People’s Study House balcony.
· Pay a visit to the music room and see which song you can find from your home country. A popular band is The Beatles. It’s also been said that on Christmas Day, you can listen to a great rendition of North Korean 'Jingle Bells'.
·If you are studying in Pyongyang, you can head to the Grand People's Study House to quietly study.
· Due to the prominent position of Namsan in Pyongyang, it was originally proposed that the site serve as the location for government offices. However, President Kim Il Sung argued that the elevation of government buildings might be viewed as a form of 'bureaucrat-ism' by the people. Instead, he argued, the location should be used for a public building open to all the people. The site was then reserved for such purposes and in the winter of 1973, Kim Il Sung proposed the construction of a library.
·There were a number of proposals for the design Grand People's Study House. These proposals are on exhibit today.
·The Grand People's Study House even has a website in Korean which introduces the institution, new books, and recent classes.
Location and Access
The Grand People’s Study House is a short walk from Kim Il Sung Square, the Mansudae Grand Monument Statues, the Foreign Language Book Shop, and the Fountain Park. It is in a great central location for easy access. You can see it from the outside if you’re after getting some photos, or you can book a guided tour around the library.