National Gift Exhibition House
The National Gift House in North Korea houses gifts gifted to the leaders of the DPRK from the Korean nation.
Some of the gifts on display here, most notably from South Korean businesses and industrialists in the 1980s and 1990s when there were brief moments of brightness in the inter-Korean situation, were previously displayed at the International Friendship Exhibition.
But now the system of gathering gifts from all Koreans, regardless of what their passport may say, is fixed in place.
Mt. Myohyang, a three-hour drive to the north of Pyongyang, is the home to many scenic views as well as the well-known International Friendship Exhibition.
This is a series of vast mostly subterranean halls displaying the tens of thousands of gifts given to the leaders of the DPRK.
More specifically, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Suk, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un, gifts are often given posthumously so they are still being added to the halls of the former three.
This exhibition houses all manner of amazing presents but these are specifically from non-Korean people overseas.
Since 2012, gifts from members of the Korean nation (the ‘National’ in the title of the place refers to this rather than the DPRK alone) have been housed and displayed in a smaller venue just at the edge of Pyongyang city, the National Gift Exhibition House.
The National Gift Exhibition House is located just outside Pyongyang.
It's located just near Mt. Ryonggak, at the east side of Pyongyang.
Up a long driveway from the main road you find yourself pulling into the parking lot outside this grey granite stricture, no windows can be seen but there is a viewing platform at the top of the building looking back down the road you have arrived on.
Photos are not permitted sadly, which is a shame because it is otherwise hard to recall many of the sometimes-amazing gifts on display here.
The first stop is the main exhibition room, with marbles statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at the far end.
It is customary to pay tribute to these before continuing.
Guides will show you around, pointing out the particularly notable and special gifts, and answering questions too. They tend to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what is on display here, which they will say is around 8000 of the 25,000+ total gifts stored here.
Over the 3 floors of the building, you will see sections for people from South Korea, many many from Koreans in Japan (a lot of whom pledge allegiance to the DPRK system still), and from Koreans overseas in the diaspora.
Gifts from such notables as former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, Hyundai Founder Chong Ju Yong, and self-proclaimed messiah figure Rev. Moon Sun Myung (the latter two of whom were born in what was to become North Korea) are always shown, and one piece to look out for is a two-sided circular painting of Kim Jong Il, in full battle dress (including glasses) from the Koryo dynasty riding a tiger stop Mt. Paekdu.
On the reverse side, the tiger sleeps peacefully as the Dear Leader, now dressed in his trademark green suit, smokes a cigarette.
It is a curious piece and what it all means is a struggle to explain for the exhibition guides.
Here you can also see some gifts from former NBA star and citizen-diplomat Dennis Rodman (who isn’t actually a Korean), including signed basketballs and shirts.
Sadly, the bottles of vodka he brought with him in 2014 which featured pictures of both he and Kim Jong Un are not on display in this place, perhaps they are among the many pieces still in storage?
A visit here takes around an hour to an hour and a half.
It can get a bit gruelling and realistically most foreign tourists wouldn’t be expected to know who everyone who gave the gifts are and being told simply that they are famous or notable doesn’t really help with his.
This exhibition is well-done though and if one day more detail on the gifts and givers could be added giving some background to who gave what and for what reason, as well as how they went about delivering it then it could be an easy half-day for anyone interested in such process.
Also allowing photos without flash (the claim is that photography may somehow damage the pieces) as well as producing a catalogue of gifts, would also be good for the more serious and engaged visitor.
It makes a worthwhile side trip in Pyongyang, combined perhaps with a picnic and hike at Mt. Ryongak, which rises above the Exhibition house, or as a stop on the way from central Pyongyang to the west coast (Nampo, Chongsam-Ri Cooperative Farm, Chollima Steelworks, etc).