The North Korean capital Pyongyang is unlike any other on Earth - it represents an ideological statement forged in concrete, bronze and marble. Foreigners first coming to Pyongyang get amazed by the greatness of the cityscape with its fascinating public buildings and gigantic monuments.
Pyongyang has a long history. In 427 AC it was mentioned as a capital of Koguryo Kingdom - the biggest and the most powerful state out of the three ancient Korean kingdoms (Silla, Paekche, and Koguryo). In 932 AC the first King of the new Koryo Dynasty WangGon moved the capital to Songak (today's Kaesong). The next ruling dynasty (Choseon / Li / Ri) established a new capital in Seoul at the end of 14th century.
In August 1945 Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule by Soviet and US troops who divided Korea roughly in half along 38th parallel. The Soviet Army established the provisional comittee to govern the Northern part of Korea. In 1948 Pyongyang became de facto capital of the DPR Korea at its establishment.
During the Korean War (1950-53) Pyongyang was briefly occupied by South Korean forces between 19 October and 6 December 1950, and it was severely damaged in 1952 when it was the target of the largest aerial raid of the entire war, involving 1,400 US aircrafts.
While Pyongyang's architecture is its most immediately striking feature, the capital is also notable for its people with their own style of shopping, eating and praying. There are many restaurants to entertain tourists in Pyongyang. The quality of the food in the restaurants of Pyongyang is usually good. Tourists are mostly served Korean food but still there is a chance to try western-style food and pizza in newly opened restaurants even though Pyongyang is one of the few world capitals without its own McDonald's.
Shopping in Pyongyang is an exciting thing to do if you like stamps, books, ginseng and originally-flavored liqueurs. Pyongyang is littered with souvenir shops - every site has a small booth selling books, postcards and other trinkets.
Pyongyang is an unique capital which has temples of all major confessions even though there are a few followers. There are several open Christian churches and Buddhist temples in Pyongyang.
In Pyongyang there are three major sites associated with the life and work of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. First, President Kim Il Sung's Native Home in Mangyondae ("mangyondae" in Korean means "valley with 10,000 views") - that is the place where Kim Il Sung was born and spent his childhood. Second, Kim Il Sung Square - the main country's square where people express their respect to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in major political events, mass demonstrations and parades. Third, the Kumsusan Palace of Sun - the mausoleum for leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Pyongyang is full of revolutionary history which is well preserved in numerous locals museums covering wide range of subjects from revolutionary history to folk customs and technology.
In Pyongyang there are exhibitions all the year round. Three most popular exhibitions are flower exhibition, three-revolution exhibition and gift exhibition.
The Pyongyang Circus is a popular tourist destinations. There are 2 circuses in Pyongyang - Korean People's Army Circus and Pyongyang Circus. Here you’ll see a stellar display of acrobatics, some very funny clowns and bears skipping rope while dressed in outlandish costumes.
In Pyongyang there are for main theatres: Pyongyang Grand Theatre, the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, the Moranbong Theatre and the Mansudae Art Theatre. The newly completed People’s Theatre stages some of the most prestigious spectacles in the city. Popular performances include plays such as The Flower Girl, A Daughter of the Party, Sea of Blood or an opera honoring Kim Jong-suk, the mother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Revolutionary operas depict North Korea's struggles in song and dance.
Education in the DPR Korea is universal and state funded schooling by the government. The national literacy rate for citizens 15 years of age and older is over 99 percent. Children go through one year of kindergarten, four years of primary education, six years of secondary education, and then on to universities.
Outside the formal structure of schools and classrooms is the "social education." This education includes not only extracurricular activities but also family life and the range of human relationships within North Korean society. Attention is paid to the influence of the social environment on the growing child and its role in the development of his or her character.
North Korean society is centered on the act of performing – in both literal and proverbial senses – some people say that the whole country the world’s biggest and longest performance. North Korea’s visual art scene is mostly focused on the genre of socialist realism.
It is easy to imagine that Pyongyang is not a city with a buzzing night life where many trendy bars and restaurants can be found. There are a shooting range, ice rink and Gold lane bowling.
The country’s commitment to sports can clearly be seen on Chongchun Sport Street where, in the span of less than a mile, one can enjoy almost a dozen separate stadiums for soccer, handball, table tennis, taekwondo, weight-lifting, volleyball, basketball and swimming. In addition, the government has also built for its people the enormous Kim Il Sung stadium (100,000 seats), a futuristic coneshaped ice rink hall, and the May Day Stadium–one of the largest in the world with seating for 150,000 people.
North Korea's first Summer Olympics appearance on its own was in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, taking home five medals, including one gold. Four years later, in Montreal, the nation took one gold and one silver in boxing, and took five medals in boxing, freestyle wrestling, and weightlifting in Moscow.
Pyongyang has well established and well functioning health care system. For example, Pyongyang Maternity Hospital is recognized by the UNESCO as "baby friendly" hospital. Recently just in front of Maternity Hospital there was open new Okryo Children Hospital with one of the best medical facilities in the country. All these efforts result in high life expectancy which in 2013 was 69.8 years.
Not only is Pyongyang’s metro the deepest underground train system in the world, it is also one of the most resplendent, with mosaics of propaganda murals, glitzy chandeliers and sparkling marble pillars. The subway is one of the best places to see residents go about their daily lives.