New DPRK Site Spotted: Old KPA Headquarters!
Uri Tours is happy to introduce the “New DPRK Site Spotted” series. This series will present new and interesting sites we spot during our trips to North Korea to keep you informed on what’s going on in the DPRK. We’ll also bring in some of the oldie but goodie sites that deserve mention. In the first of this series, we present the FORMER HEADQUARTERS OF THE KOREAN PEOPLE’S ARMY.
We were among the first foreigners to visit the former headquarters of the Korean People’s Army (“KPA”), which is now being memorialized as the Revolutionary Museum for Victorious War (전승혁명사적관). The former underground headquarter is located in Pyongyang and served as the working headquarter base for Kim Il Sung and the KPA from January 1951 to December 1953.
The Korean War—from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953—is often referred to as the “Forgotten War” in the West. It was a brutal war, out of which two separate Koreas emerged and remain to this day. The South was backed by primarily U.S. forces and later UN forces, whereas the North received support from Chinese and Soviet forces.
A large-scale mosaic depicting the late Kim Il Sung and his KPA comrades during the Korean War.
Half-underground buildings were built in response to U.S. air raids during the Korean War.
You can see the original table where the Armistice Agreement was ratified by Kim Il Sung himself just a few hours after it was signed on July 27, 1953.
Then we entered the comprehensive underground tunnel where the KPA operated.
The underground tunnel was complete with living quarters, the office of Kim Il Sung, dining halls, medical treatment rooms, and the original assembly hall where the KPA held meetings:
We also saw the room where Kim Chaek allegedly died from a heart attack in 1951. The story is that he had been working in his office in this underground tunnel, but had not emerged for a noticeable period of time. When the soldiers went to check on him, he was found dead. Kim Chaek was the right hand man of Kim Il Sung and the later appointed Vice Chairman of the Korean Worker’s Party. The Kim Chaek University of Science and Technology was named after this important figure.
What was the most fascinating was a new stone mural that had just been unveiled for the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War, one of the biggest celebrated events in the history of the DPRK. This is currently the one and only monumental writing in the country in which the names of all 3 DPRK leaders are displayed: Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. The names can be made out on the far left side of the mural.
At the end of the visit, when we asked the local guide, “so, where is the KPA based now?” the answer we got was, “we can’t tell you that” followed by “nobody knows.”
We offer a chance to see this fascinating site in person during our upcoming 2014 Victory Day tours:
Read our most recent DPRK Traveler Spotlight on Stefan Krasowski, who traveled with us to the DPRK during the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War, last year’s Victory Day tour.
See also a related post on our exclusive Q&A with the original founder of the Korean War Memorial in D.C.