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

Kirk Larsen kwlarsen67 at gmail.com
Thu Dec 27 20:51:46 EST 2012

Thanks for the many comments on North Korean statues, old and new.

I was hoping that Chris Springer would weigh in and am glad he did. Next
time I am on campus, I will take a look at the 1977 *Democratic People's
Republic of Korea* in order to satisfy my antiquarian curiosity about the
gold. Many thanks!

It is interesting to note that the 2001 “Short Biography” of Kim Jong Il
credits Kim the younger (but no longer the youngest) with guiding the
construction of the 1972 Mansudae statue:

In order to celebrate Kim Il Sung ’s 60th birthday in a grand fashion, he
guided the work of erecting Kim Il Sung ’s bronze statue in Pyongyang while
encouraging the Party members and other working people to effect a fresh
revolutionary upsurge.

He said to the officials: “Building Comrade Kim Il Sung ’s bronze statue is
an undertaking to uphold and safeguard his high authority and prestige, and
hand down to posterity his greatness and august image. Therefore, the
statue must be built so that it can radiate his greatness as an outstanding
leader and his image as the benevolent father of the people.” (*Kim Jong
Il: Short Biography*, 50).

It is apparent that by 2001 at least, all memory of the statue being
covered with gold had been erased.

This appears to contrast with at least some other statues across the DPRK
which, if some combination of defector testimony and P’yŏngyangologists
(apologies to Frank Hoffmann) is to be trusted, are gold plated or at
least covered
with gold spray<http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk02300&num=3525>(

Also, because the statues of Kim Il Sung are gold plated, it is rumored
that several hundred tons of gold are needed to manufacture them.

A gold spray is used to coat the statues. Because the structure is made of
bronze, it can corrode in the rain and wind. Therefore, every two years
each figure is recoated with gold spray.

However, there is one part of the structure that is manufactured in solid
gold. To keep the statue from being struck by lightening, there is a rod of
gold inserted in the center. There is a story told of a man who extracted a
gold rod from one of the revered commemorative statues of Kim Il Sung
during the extreme food shortage in 1997 and sold it to China. His deed was
discovered and it is said that half way through his trial, the man
committed suicide by hanging himself.

The spray used to coat the statues is brought in from Germany at a very
high cost. Because of this, it is said that the spray is only used on the
statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Hyung Jik.

As for the new Mansudae version of Kim Il Sung, the KCNA “explains” as

The statues portray smiling Kim Il Sung who indicates the way ahead with
his hand held forward and smiling Kim Jong Il blessing Songun Korea
prosperous morrow while looking far into its bright future in the new

It is interesting to note that the new (or newer) statues of both father
and son seem to emphasize the similarities between the two. Start with
the stand-alone
statue of Kim Jong
the Ministry of State Security Headquarters (
move on to the twin
the campus of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces (
http://nkleadershipwatch.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/948708-2.jpg, through
the statues of father and son both on
and end with the new and improved Mansudae statues and I get a strong sense
that the powers that be in P’yŏngyang want to have father and son subtly
meld together in public imagination. Perhaps a much needed correction to
the persistent trope among defectors that while many still respect and
honor Kim Il Sung, feelings for Kim Jong Il aren't as fond.


On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 2:18 PM, Morriss, Peter
<pete.morriss at nuigalway.ie>wrote:

>  Since we're on this topic, can I also ask if it is known why it was
> (they were) under wraps in September, depriving me of the honour of viewing
> it/them.  Have the wraps now been removed?  If so, what changes were made?
> Many thanks,
> Pete Morriss
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* Koreanstudies [koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] on behalf of
> Ruediger Frank [ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at]
> *Sent:* 27 December 2012 18:01
> *To:* Korean Studies Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [KS] Gold leaf on the Kim Il Sung statue in the Mansudae
> Grand Monument?
>  Perhaps one of the colleagues on this list has a clue on a more recent
> aspect of statuology: As you know, in April 2012 a statue of Kim Jong Il
> was added to the top of Mansudae Hill. Not only was the one of Kim Il Sung,
> standing there since 1972, moved a few steps to the left; Kim Il Sung is
> now also wearing glasses, a smile, and a Western suit. Any reliable
> information on why that has been changed? No doubt the main statue of the
> leader in the country is of the highest symbolic value, so not even the
> smallest change would happen without a purpose. So what is it that the
> changed appearance of the Kim Il Sung statue wants to tell the North Korean
> people?
> All the best,
> Rudiger Frank
> on Mittwoch, 26. Dezember 2012 at 09:08 you wrote:
> *> There's a photo of the gilded Kim Il Sung statue in the North
> > Korean pictorial magazine "Democratic People's Republic of Korea,"
> > 12/1977. It looks quite different from the bronze version. As
> > Ruediger Frank suggests, too much light reflects off the surface,
> > and the statue's contrasts are lost.
> > As Jim Hoare notes, the statue was erected in 1972. The gilding
> > was applied in 1977, according to Helen-Louise Hunter's book
> > "Kim Il Song's North Korea."
> > The Chinese delegation in question visited September 8-13, 1978,
> > and the gold was allegedly removed soon after, perhaps even that
> > same month. (Did Chinese objections lead to the degilding? This
> > has been reported but not solidly established.)
> > While gilding a statue seems extravagant, gold plating is typically
> > so thin that the cost of the gold itself is not necessarily prohibitive.
> > Chris Springer
> > "Pyongyang: The Hidden History of the North Korean Capital"
> *> www.hiddenhistory.info <http://www.hiddenhistory.info>

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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