[KS] Gold leaf on the Kim Il Sung statue in the Mansudae Grand Monument?

Ruediger Frank ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at
Thu Dec 20 03:49:52 EST 2012

Dear Kirk,
I have no photo of the golden one, but the story I was told by the NKs about 20 years ago was slightly different: that the workers (sic!) originally wanted to have it covered in gold leaf, but the great leader, in his typical humbleness, insisted on "simple" bronze. Of course I don't know whether this was a mere ex-post modification of the official "text". In any case, it would correspond well with the ages-old ideal (rarely achieved) that rulers "go down" to the people and lead a "simple" life. North Korean literature and art is full of examples; just think of the often told and pictured story at the Ch'òllima steelworks (http://www.flickr.com/photos/josephferris76/6974483452/) where the leader refused to sit on a chair and rather sat on a piece of debris (which is now preserved as a national treasure). Funny, in the 1970s in the Soviet Union I heard similar anecdotes about Lenin. Speaking of historical precedents, isn't there also a section in Ch'angdòkgung (the yòn'gyòngdang residence, I believe) where the Korean king occasionally took upon himself the alleged hardship of leading a "simple" life?
Another, different story I heard was rather technical: that the original golden statue reflected the light too strongly. In 1991, the statue was for sure bronze. But there are list members who visited the country earlier, so perhaps they can help.

on Donnerstag, 20. Dezember 2012 at 00:27 you wrote:

Hello all,

I have often heard it said that the mammoth Kim Il Sung statue that long graced the Mansudae Grand Monument (before recently being updated and placed side by side with a similarly large statue of Kim Jong Il) was originally covered in gold leaf. But, as the story usually goes, an expression of distaste by a visiting PRC official (sometimes Deng Xiaoping, sometimes someone else) and a threat to reduce Chinese aid to the DPRK resulted in the gold leaf being removed. 

My question is whether anyone has seen or has access to a photograph of the original gold-plated version of the statue? My cursory fumbling around the web has not resulted in any such image. I am beginning to wonder whether the story is actually true (and whether perhaps some early visitors mistook the new, shiny bronze for gold?). 

Any experts able and willing to weigh in on this? 


Kirk W. Larsen 
Department of History
Assistant Director, Academic Programs and Research
David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies
2151 JFSB
Provo, UT 84602-6707
(801) 422-3445

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