The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (금수산태양궁전) formally known as Kumsusan Memorial Palace and Kumsusan Assembly Hall, is a giant mausoleum compound located in Pyongyang, North Korea and serves as the final resting place for the former North Korean leaders – President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il.
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is the largest mausoleum in the world with a total floor space of 10,700 m2 (115,000 square feet) with hallways stretching over a kilometre long (3,300 feet), the square located in front of the complex is over 500 meters wide (1,600 feet), and is completely surrounded by a protective moat and high concrete wall.
The palace is opened to foreign visitors on Thursday and Sunday mornings, or on national holidays. Visiting the palace generally takes between 2 to 3 hours and requires an early morning start.
Initially built in 1976 as the Kumsusan Assembly Hall, the building served as the official residence and office for Kim Il Sung until his death on the 8th July 1994. Under the leadership of his son, Kim Jong Il, the complex underwent extensive renovations and was converted into a mausoleum. It was renamed the Kumsusan Memorial Hall where Kim Il Sung’s embalmed body would be displayed for all North Koreans and foreign visitors.
On December 17th 2011 Kim Jong Il passed away, his son and current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, displayed his father’s body for 10 days at the memorial hall until a state funeral was arranged on December 28th 2011.
The complex was formerly renamed to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on February 16th 2012 which coincided with what would have been Kim Jong Il’s 70th birthday. The renaming of the palace was a joint proclamation by the North Korean cabinet, parliament and Workers’ Party of Korea. A major ceremony was held on the palace’s grounds, including a military parade by the Korean People’s Army and a fireworks display.
The palace was formally reopened to the public on December 17th 2012 exactly one year after the death of Kim Jong Il where his body was laid on display, as well as his car, boat, train carriage, outfits, medals and awards.
Regulations for visiting Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
Along with Mansudae Grand Monument, the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is considered a sacred site and not as a tourist attraction to the North Koreans. Whilst it is possible to visit the palace, it is not mandatory for your visit in Pyongyang. If you’re travelling with a group tour you can choose to wait at your hotel for the morning, or if you’re travelling on a private tour it can be excluded from your tour itinerary. Visitors under the age of 17 are not permitted to visit the palace, and a separate itinerary will be arranged with their parent or guardian.
If you choose to visit the palace you must be respectful during your entire visit. It is not possible to visit the palace without making numerous bows which is considered as a sign of showing respect in Korean culture.
When visiting the palace you are required to wear either a formal dress/suit/shirt with long trousers and dress shoes or clean sneakers. Smart causal is also accepted as long as you have a button up shirt with collar. Blue jeans, trousers with tears, shorts, sandals or flip flops are not acceptable. Without the correct attire you will not be allowed to enter.
Before arriving at the palace, you’ll be reminded by your guides to leave all your personal belongings on the bus or in your hotel room. Backpacks or camera bags are not permitted inside. All tourists will pass through a security check to ensure no items are on your body. Your phone or camera are allowed to be checked into the cloakroom of the palace. Photography is not allowed inside but is permitted at the front of the palace in certain areas. Smartwatches and fitness bands are strictly prohibited within the complex.
Whilst touring the palace you will be reminded you cannot talk loudly, no chewing gum, no eating or drinking, no running, no smoking, and no leaning against walls or walking on travelators. You must remain with your group, keep your hands by your side, do not place your hands in your pockets or fold your arms as this is considered impolite in Korean culture.
Inside the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is one of the most unique buildings in the world and contains numerous large rooms and exquisite hallways with high ceilings covered in marble tiles and filled with lavish decorations with so much attention to detail.
Once arriving visitors are first greeted with the waiting room which is separate to the main building but still within the palace complex. Here your local guides will complete tourist registration formalities before proceeding further. Toilets are available and highly recommended using before entering as the next toilet break isn’t until after touring the area.
You will be escorted to the side of the palace entrance to the cloakroom to check in your smart phones or cameras. From this point onward there are to be no items on your person. Once clearing the security check you will begin your way deeper into the palace riding on various travelators passing views of the moat and of the actual palace.
You may begin to notice there’s no windows on the palace except for one located on the top balcony on the north side. This window led directly to Kim Il Sung’s office and is said this was done so he could have a clear view of the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery where his wife was laid to rest. Limiting the windows on the palace made the structure more secure in case of any attacks.
Continuing your way deeper into the building you will pass photos of Kim Il Sung to your left and of Kim Jong Il to your right with various world leaders and North Korean locals during their lifetime – usually giving on the spot guidance. Once arriving you’ll enter a large room with tall wax figures of both former leaders, from this point you will be lead down halls to the mausoleum chambers.
There are two separate rooms where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lay in state. They are both surrounded by a glass coffin. Before entering the rooms you will pass an industrial blow machine that the Koreans say clean the dust off people before entering these sacred rooms. From here groups are lined up in rows of four and make a bow at the feet of the body, walk clockwise to the left side of the body to bow, walk passed the head and make a third bow on the right side of the body before exiting the room.
From here you’ll enter the awards room where medals, diplomas and awards from various world leaders, governments and organisations were presented to either leader. You’ll also be lead to rooms displaying the train carriages, cars, electric buggies and boats used during their leadership with a map showing where they have visited around the world.
Outside the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
Once completing the inside of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, you’ll be escorted back to the cloakroom to collect any checked in items and then lead out to the palace grounds and square. The grounds features a greenhouse which covers an area of 100 hectares with over 400,000 trees of 260 difference species. Over 200 of them are rare trees sent from around the world.
Photography is permitted and you may take photos of the grounds and of the palace. Whilst taking photos of the palace you must include the full view of both portraits of the leaders on top of the entrance. If you choose to pose in front of the palace you should be sure to keep a respectful pose with your arms at your sides. Don’t make any gestures with your hands such as peace signs or jumping. Photos are not permitted of the military personnel guarding the complex.
We encourage our tourists to bring a spare set of clothing with you and leave on the bus. This can allow you to change into more comfortable clothing to continue touring for the remainder of the day.
North Korean national holidays particularly ones with an important anniversary date can get quite busy with visitors and may delay check in process once arriving at the palace. This may require the tour group to have an earlier start than usual to keep the tour schedule on time so you don’t miss out on other items later during the day.
If you have a medical condition that requires you to have a pacemaker or stainless steel / titanium implant, please let your guides know beforehand so they may inform the security check in staff to avoid any possible delays.