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

don kirk kirkdon at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 20 22:24:51 EST 2012

That's a fascinating story -- so I was wrong in thinking the statue was constructed after his death in 1994? Or could it have been a different statue that you saw 20 years earlier -- maybe  one with the gold leaf -- that was replaced with humble bronze?Don Kirk

--- On Thu, 12/20/12, Victor Atknine <v_atk9 at yahoo.ca> wrote:

From: Victor Atknine <v_atk9 at yahoo.ca>
Subject: Re: [KS] Gold leaf on the Kim Il Sung statue in the Mansudae Grand Monument?
To: "Ruediger Frank" <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at>, "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Date: Thursday, December 20, 2012, 9:14 PM

I happened to be in Pyongyang in 1973-74 as an exchange student. The statue was brand new and I must say it was really shiny. I was told it was “순금도금-plated,” i.e. gilded. I think that was true. I think I may have some negative films somewhere in my St. Petersburg apartment. 
As to the story of Great Leader’s humbleness, I remember another story. A highly ranked diplomat (a Secretary or Consul Ambassador) at the Soviet embassy told us, Kimdae students, that originally the statue was supposed to be as high as 30 meters, but the Great Leader on having observed the draft mentioned that “we should not squander folks’ welfare” and ordered to shorten it up to 26 meters and make use of the saved 4 meters for the sake of the people. I think that story is true, although nobody can be sure about the exact height of the final product. Wikipedia says the statue is 20 meters high. 
I have personal sentimental memory of the statue. In 1974 I was arrested for taking pictures of the statue from the wrong position and spent a couple of hours in the local police department waiting for the Consul General.
Happy 동짓날 and Merry Christmas to everybody!

Victor Atknine 12 Paul William Gate Brampton L6V 4C8, Canada Phone: 647-778-1755 CURRENTLY: JSD Research Institute Jungang-ro Rd 79, #70, Jung-ku, Daejeon, 301-826, KOREA (356-8 Seonwha-dong, Jung-gu , Daejeon, 301-826, KOREA) Phone: (office) 070-8644-3044; (cell) 010-3575-3815 E-mail: v_atk9 at yahoo.ca

From: Ruediger Frank <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at>
To: Kirk Larsen <kwlarsen67 at gmail.com>; koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws 
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2012 5:49:52 PM
Subject: Re: [KS] Gold leaf on the Kim Il Sung statue in the Mansudae Grand Monument?

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


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
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20121220/061563dd/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list