The Grand People’s Study House (인민대학습당) is the national library of North Korea and is located in the centre of Pyongyang. It forms the picturesque background to Kim Il Sung Square and is a short walk from the Mansudae Grand Monuments.
The Grand People’s Study House is a large traditional Korean style building with a total floor space of over 100,000 square meters with 10 floors reaching as high as 60 meters. It contains 21 reading rooms and 17 lecture rooms, both divided into 10 sections. There are a total of 600 rooms. The largest room in the entire library is an 800 seat auditorium. The Grand People’s Study House is stocked with over 30 million books and can accommodate 10,000 people each day.
Locals over the age of 17 can enjoy the facilities throughout the library including accessing the local North Korean intranet for research and entertainment purposes. Many of the students are from university but it still quite common to see elderly Koreans digging into a good book. Foreign publications in various languages such as Chinese, English, German and Russian are also available to locals as well as tourists visiting – but locals must obtain special permission.
Apart from the various rooms you can explore during your tour to the Grand People’s Study House, the building itself is worth taking in. Koreans aim to impress, and impress they do. The Grand People’s Study House is just that – Grand. Beautiful staircases and marble floors pave the way as you take a look around, and the high ceilings make for a light airy feel.
The entire building took a year and 9 months to complete and was opened on April 15th 1982 to coincide with Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday.
Tour of the Grand People’s Study House
Visiting the Grand People’s Study House in Pyongyang is one of the highlights of the capital which is why we include it into the majority of our programs. During your visit you will be guided by a local working at the library. The local guide greet you at the entrance of the study hall, previously they would greet you at the side entrance where a monument of Kim Il Sung sitting with a book in his hand which oddly enough resembles the Lincoln Memorial in Washing D.C.
Locals visiting the library have an electronic membership card which they use to enter and exit the library through a turnstyle. The main lobby of the library consists of an electronic LED board displaying the new arrivals of books available. On the two lower floors are large reading rooms which we also use to study during our Korean language study tour held annually. The local guides will explain the tables in these room were specifically designed by Kim Jong Il so they can adjust to the comfort of the reader by raising or flattening the table top.
As you make your way up higher using the granite stairs, you’ll be lead to the foreign language room. Here classes of up to 50 students are able to take part in learning English, German, Russian, Japanese, or Chinese. The classes welcome foreign guests to do impromptu classes so the students have a chance to improve their listening and speaking skills.
There is a music appreciation room where students can listen to foreign music. The lady working in this room will usually ask where the foreign visitors are from and present them with a CD distributed from their country. I come from Australia so I’ve been presented different Aussie albums such as Kylie Minogue and Slim Dusty (lol). Other classic albums such as Mozart or The Beatles are also available. Located in the same room off to the side are TV’s so students can watch foreign documentaries usually about nature or animals.
One of the top highlights of visiting the library is reaching the observation balcony on the top floor which is only accessibly by elevator. From here you have an incredible view of Kim Il Sung Square, the Juche Tower, the Taedong River and most of east Pyongyang.