The Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, North Korea was modeled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but was built to be just a little bit taller than its French counterpart.
The Arch of Triumph was officially opened on April 15, 1982 to mark the 70th birthday of Kim Il-sung, the first leader of North Korea. It was President Kim Il-sung who, according to North Korean history, led the Korean resistance to Japan from 1925 to 1945 (although he was only 13 in 1925). The arch was built on the site of Kim’s triumphant return to Pyongyang in 1945, marking the end of the Japanese occupation of the city.
The Arch of Triumph is a vast structure, its imposing nature only enhanced by the relative isolation in which it sits, alone on an expansive square surrounded by roads that see little traffic.
At 197 feet (60 m) high and 164 feet (50 m) wide, it’s the second tallest triumphal arch in the world after the Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City. It’s also 33 feet taller than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, upon which it was undoubtedly modeled.
The arch is steeped in symbolism, with references to the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle, the Korean nation and, of course, Kim Il-sung. The structure is apparently made from 25,500 blocks of white granite, each one representing a day in the life of President Kim Il-sung up to his 70th birthday. On either side of the arch are the dates 1925 and 1945, referring to the period during which Kim spent in resistance to the Japanese. Also inscribed on the arch are the words of the revolutionary hymn “Song of General Kim Il-sung,” and 70 azalea reliefs representing each year of Kim’s life.
Bronze statues on the arch pay homage to the three pillars of the Workers’ Party of Korea, showing workers, farmers and the intelligentsia, and the soldiers who fought for the Korean Revolutionary Army. Also represented is Mount Paektu, a sacred mountain that played a part in the fight against Japanese occupation (Kim Il-sung organized his resistance in the dense forests surrounding the mountain).
Inside the Arch of Triumph, meanwhile, are a series of viewing platforms and rooms connected by elevators and stairs. From the top, visitors have impressive views across the surrounding neighborhood, Kim Il-sung Stadium and Moranbong Park.
Know Before You Go
The Arch of Triumph is located at the intersection of Moranbong Street, Chilsungmun Street and Kaesonmun Street in the Moranbong Distict of Pyongyang. The Kaeson Metro Station is located nearby. Some tourist buses coming from the airport into Pyongyang stop at the arch to let visitors have a quick walk around. Alternatively, you can arrange a tour to the arch once in Pyongyang. The Arch of Triumph is open every day. Entrance to the rooms and viewing points inside the arch costs about $5 US. Check your nation’s travel advisory for any warnings before traveling to North Korea.