On the outskirts of Pyongyang stands the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, once the office and official residence of North Korea’s founder President Kim Il Sung. In 1994, the palace underwent a significant transformation into a multi-generational mausoleum that now serves as the final resting place for President Kim Il Sung and his son and successor General Kim Jong Il. President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il now lie in state in separate rooms, each within a climate-controlled glass sarcophagus. The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is one of the largest mausoleums in the world.
What’s it like inside?
The inside of the palace is characterized by vast halls, high ceilings, grand staircases and opulent decoration throughout the myriad of rooms. Beyond the mausoleum chambers, there are rooms showcasing honorary titles, medals, and achievements that each leader received during their lives. There is a ceremonial hall that includes statues of each leader, a hall of lamentation, and rooms highlighting the trips taken locally and abroad by each leader. Important possessions including the train carriage where General Kim Jong Il passed away, golf cart he used on field-guidance trips and even his boat can be found exhibited inside the palace, preserved in their original state. Photographs of diplomatic visits between President Kim Il Sung, General Kim Jong Il and world leaders can be seen adorning the walls.
The grounds of the palace form a park, green and manicured with water fountains, bright flowerbeds and a moat where swans can be seen. The complex is enclosed by a granite fence. It’s common to see Koreans taking professional group photos here after their visit inside.
Can tourists visit?
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is one of North Korea’s most sacred sites. It’s not deemed as a tourist site, and visiting is a somber atmosphere similar to a funeral.
However, foreigners including tourists are permitted to visit the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on Thursday and Sunday mornings, or during special holidays by invitation. The visit takes approximately two hours. The palace is closed during May and June each year for renovation. Local Koreans typically visit on special occasions, arranged in groups of work units, school trips or family visits. Foreigners can access the palace by car or bus, and locals can arrive by tram.
What is the etiquette?
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is governed by specific regulations, and rules of etiquette must be followed during the visit. These are outlined below.
- Formal dress is required. Casual wear such as t-shirts, jeans, shorts sneakers/sandals or not permitted.
– For men: Collared button-up shirt (no polo shirts), dark or khaki pants/slacks, dark closed-toe shoes, tie not strictly required but encouraged.
– For women: Knee-length dress/skirt or dark or khaki pants/slacks, shirt/blouse covering shoulders, closed-toed shoes.
– Shirts are to be tucked in and buttoned at the wrists. Jackets should be buttoned. Ties are to be done tightly, not left loose at the collar.
- Photography is not permitted inside the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. All belongings must be left at the cloakroom on entry. All visitors will go through metal detection, and further pat-down if required. We recommend leaving all belongings on the bus, including emptying your pockets.
- It’s not permitted to walk on the travelator in the access corridor. It’s here where you’ll receive an explanation of the palace from your guides.
- You’ll be required to bow at multiple times during the visit. Notably at the ceremonial hall and inside the mausoleum chambers of each leader. Your hands should be by your sides with a deep bow at the waist.
- It’s important to keep your voice down during the visit, with silence expected inside the mausoleum chambers.
- Do not touch anything or go beyond roped off areas. Do not run or sit down. Stay with your guides and the group throughout the visit.
- When visiting the park outside, do not walk on the grass. Eating, chewing gum or smoking is not permitted.
- For those unwilling to follow the procedures and etiquette, we recommend not visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.
Visiting on our tours
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is included on most of our tour itineraries taking place over either a Thursday, Sunday or major anniversary. Itineraries in May or June do not include the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun due to closure.
After the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, we will often visit the nearby Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery and/or the Mansudae Grand Monument. These are sacred sites to the Korean people where formal dress is recommended, and similar etiquette is required.
We then return briefly to the hotel for travelers to get changed out of their formal dress into something more comfortable to continue our day.