Located outside Nampo, a coastal town and seaside resort to the south of Pyongyang, the Tae’ an Friendship Glass Factory was opened on October 9th, 2005 by Comrade Kim Jong-Il, and is a modern factory in the socialist-style. The ‘friendship’ in the factory’s name refers to cooperation from Chinese backers when construction began in 2004. Since 2006 the factory has primarily produced sheet glass used for windows, but does have sidelines producing some more specialized items of glassware too.
Visiting Tae’an Friendship Glass Factory
A short drive out of the city, when arriving at the factory compound don’t miss the beautiful mosaic of Mount Paektu in the carpark area nearby the gate, it is extremely photogenic. The factory’s grounds are immaculately manicured and are dotted with red flags with slogans to encourage the workers. You will have a brief walk through these before entering the buildings proper.
The tour of the factory itself begins as you ascend a staircase to the second floor, with each step the heat noticeably increases, before engulfing you as you enter the room with furnaces producing liquid glass. In winter, this can be a welcome blast of warmth, but in summer prepare to feel as ready to melt as the glass itself!
The factory is very much a working operation, and has not been set up as a ‘theme park,’ therefore it is really important you exercise good common sense and health and safety practice throughout the building as the machinery produces a great deal of heat.
The tour then continues along the production line, as finished panes of glass slide down enormous rollers, cooling as they go. This is quite fun to watch, as an enormous crashing and crunching announces the occasional pane, which is judged to be of insufficient quality being dropped, smashed and ground up before your very eyes. The remainder are carefully crated up by workmen for shipping out to the numerous construction sites in Pyongyang and around the country.
Photography is allowed throughout the factory tour, and as a keen photographer I will attest offers some fantastic photo opportunities, especially on sunny days when the light in the factory can be amazing. The complex sports some incredible motivational socialist realist poster artwork, newspaper stands for employees, and the production line itself.
No souvenirs are available to buy on the site, although the factory does have a showroom showcasing some of the more elaborate items of glassware the factory produces on occasion.