Turn Back the Clock
Thursday - Pyongyang
Puppet Theatre

A rare remnant of colonial era architecture in downtown Pyongyang

I'm a survivor (What?)
I'm not gon' give up (What?) -
Destiny's Child

Last month we posted about the discovery of an old brick on the grounds of the Russian Embassy, a rare remnant of colonial era Pyongyang. Today we bring you then and now photos of one of the most prominent buildings remaining from the colonial era, its art deco design seemingly out of place amidst a city of socialist architecture. This is today’s Pyongyang Puppet Theatre, one of toughest buildings around. An octogenarian this year, it is old by Pyongyang standards and a survivor of history.

Originally the Pyongyang Public Hall (平壤工會堂 -평양공회당), it was completed in 1937, the tenth year of the Showa Era. Its location can be seen on a US Army Map Service 1946 map of Pyongyang below. Very well built with dense masonry, sturdy exterior bracing, the building was also extremely lucky, somehow surviving the aerial bombing of Pyongyang during the Korea War, when most other structures in the city were either obliterated or damaged beyond repair.

Following the establishment of the DPRK, the hall was used for meetings and later converted to the Pyongyang Art Theatre. In the post-1945 photo above, the slogan atop the building reads 'Long Live the Workers’ Party of Korea’. It was converted to the Pyongyang Puppet Theatre, likely in the 1970’s following the construction of the much larger Mansudae Art Theatre.

Through the decades the building has retained its characteristic yellow color. For a long time in the post-1945 era, the structure would have stood out among the drab grays of Pyongyang, yet today finds itself at home among the city’s more recent and ubiquitous pastels.

In August of 2017, the Puppet Theatre was surrounded by construction barriers, suggesting an uncertain future. As this year marks the building’s 80th anniversary, we sincerely hope the building is up for renovation and not demolition. It would be a shame to have survived the Korean War and Pyongyang's extensive post-war construction, only to knocked down now.

It is currently not possible for foreign visitors to view the interior of the Puppet Theatre.

'Turn Back the Clock Thursday' brings you views of Korea from more than two decades of Koryo Tours' trips to the DPRK and images in the public domain. Colonial postcard of today's Pyongyang Puppet Theatre courtesy of Wikimapia.

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