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Pyongyang ( ) is the capital of North Koreamarker, located on the Taedong River. According to preliminary results from the 2008 population census, it has a population of 3,255,388.

The city was split from the South P'yŏngan province in 1946. It is administered as a directly-governed city (chikhalsi), on the same level as provincial governments, not a special city (teukbyeolsi) as Seoulmarker is in South Koreamarker. Some sources, mostly older and South Korean, refer to P'yŏngyang as a special city.


A large ancient village in the P'yŏngyang area called Kǔmtan-ni was excavated in 1955 by archaeologists who found prehistoric occupation from the Chǔlmun and Mumun pottery periods.

North Koreans associate Pyongyang with "Asadal (아사달; 신시)," or Wanggŏmsŏng (왕검성; 王儉城), the first capital of Gojoseon according to Korean history books, notably Samguk Yusa. Many South Korean historians dispute this association because other Korean history books place Asadal around the Liao He located in western Manchuria. Nonetheless, Pyongyang became a major city under Gojoseon.

No relic from the era of Former Han has been found around Pyongyang. It is likely that the area of Pyongyang ceded from disintegrating Gojoseon and belonged to another Korean kingdom by the time of fall of Wimanjoseon, the longest lasting part of Gojoseon, by Han dynasty of China in 108 BC. Relics from Later Han (25 AD to 220 AD) periods from the Pyongyang area seems to suggest China subsequently made successful military advances into the Korean peninsula including the area of Pyongyang. The area around Pyongyang was called Lelang-guk during the Later Han periods. As the capital of Lelang-guk (낙랑국; 낙랑), Pyongyang remained an important commercial and cultural outpost until Lelang-guk was destroyed by the expanding Goguryeo in 313.

Goguryeo moved its capital here in 427; according to Christopher Beckwith, Pyongyang is the Sino-Korean reading of the name they gave it in their language, *Piarna 'level land.' Tang Dynasty Chinamarker and Silla allied and defeated Goguryeo in 668. In 676, it was taken by Silla but left in the border between Silla and Balhae until the Goryeomarker dynasty, when the city was revived as Sŏgyŏng (서경; 西京; "Western Capital") although never actually a capital of Goryeo. It was the provincial capital of the P'yŏngan Province during the Joseon dynastymarker, becoming provincial capital of South P'yŏngan Province from 1896 and through the period of Japanese rule.

In 1945, Japanese rule ended and it was occupied by Sovietmarker forces, and became the temporary capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at its establishment in 1948 while it aimed to recapture its official capital at that time of Seoulmarker. It was severely damaged in the Korean War, during which it was briefly occupied by South Korean forces—the only time in history that a communist capital fell to enemy forces. After the war, the city was quickly rebuilt with Soviet help, with many buildings built in Socialist Classicism.
Satellite view of P'yŏngyang.

Historic names

One of its many historic names is Ryugyŏng (류경; 柳京), or "capital of willows", as willow trees have always been numerous throughout the city's history, and many poems have been written about these willows. Even today, Pyongyang has numerous willow trees planted everywhere, and many buildings and places have "Ryugyŏng" in their names, the most notable of all being its uncompleted Ryugyŏng Hotelmarker. Its other historic names include Kisŏng, Hwangsŏng, Rakrang, Sŏgyŏng, Sŏdo, Hogyŏng, Changan, etc. During the Japanese rule, and in the Japanese language, it was also known as Heijō, which is simply the Japanese reading of the Chinese characters the name Pyongyang consists of.
Pyongyang seen from Spot Satellite

Administrative divisions

P'yŏngyang is divided into 19 wards (ku- or guyŏk) (the city proper) and 4 counties (kun or gun).


The capital has been completely redesigned since the Korean War (1950–1953). It is designed with wide avenues, imposing monuments, and monolithic buildings. The tallest structure in the city is the uncompleted Ryugyŏng Hotelmarker. This hotel has 105 floors, encloses of floor space, and was planned to be topped by seven revolving restaurants.

Some notable landmarks in the city include the Kumsusan Memorial Palacemarker, the Arch of Triumphmarker (heavily inspired by Parismarker's Arc de Triomphemarker but of a larger size), the reputed birthplace of Kim Il-sung at Mangyongdae Hill, Juche Towermarker, and two of the world's largest stadiums (Kim Il Sung Stadium and Rungrado May Day Stadiummarker). Pyongyang TV Towermarker is a minor landmark. Other visitor attractions include the Korea Central Zoomarker and the large golden statues of North Korea's two leaders. The Arch of Reunificationmarker has a map of a united Korea supported by two concrete Korean women dressed in traditional dress straddling the multi-laned Reunification Highway that stretches from Pyongyang to the DMZ.
Image:Juche Tower.jpg|Juche Towermarker, a reminder to the North Korean people of Kim Il-sung's philosophy of Juche (self-reliance).Image:PyongYang-Arch of Triumph.jpg|Arch of Triumphmarker.Image:Arch of Reunification.jpg|Arch of Reunificationmarker, a symbolisation of the goal to a reunified Korea.Image:May-day Stadium at night.jpg|Rungrado May Day Stadiummarker.Image:Kumsusan_Memorial_Palace,_Pyongyang.jpg|Kumsusan Memorial PalacemarkerImage:Tomb of King Tongmyong, Pyongyang, North Korea-1.jpg|Tomb of King Tongmyong.File:Pyongyang-feb-2009-crop-Ryugyong Hotel.jpg|Ryugyŏng HotelmarkerFile:Monument WPK edit3.jpg|Workers Party of Korea Monument


Metro and rail

Pyongyang metro system.
The Pyongyang Metro is a two-line underground metro system which has a length of . The Hyoksin line serves Kwangbok, Konguk, Hwanggumbol, Konsol, Hyoksin, Jonu, Jonsung, Samhung and Rakwon station. The Chollima line serves Puhung, Yonggwang, Ponghwa, Sungni, Tongil, Kaeson, Jonu and Pulgunbyol station. There is also a long Pyongyang Tram and trolleybus service, but tourists have heard that few locals use them due to the high and frequent hazard of electrocution. There are not as many private automobiles as in Western cities, although the state government operates a sizeable fleet of Mercedes-Benz limousines for Party bureaucrats. The trolley bus-stops are fairly full. The incidence of use of the underground is difficult to gauge as tourists are only permitted to travel between two designated stops with a guide. It has been thought that on these pre-arranged occasions, the fellow passengers are selected to be there at the same time. The underground map is extensive but, again, just how many of the stations are operational at any one time is a matter of guesswork.

Air transportation

State-owned Air Koryo has scheduled flights from Sunan Capital International Airportmarker to Beijing (PEKmarker), Shenyangmarker (SHEmarker), Vladivostokmarker (VVO), Macaumarker (MFMmarker), Bangkokmarker (BKKmarker), Khabarovskmarker (KHVmarker) and Shenzhenmarker (SZXmarker). There are occasional chartered flights to Incheonmarker (ICNmarker), Yangyang Countymarker (YNYmarker) and several Japanese cities. Air Koryo also claims scheduled service on a few domestic routes, although the accuracy of this is not known. The only domestic routes are Hamhungmarker, Wonsanmarker, Chongjinmarker, Hyesanmarker and Samjiyonmarker. Intermittent service to Pyongyang is also provided by a few foreign carriers, most notably Chinese. In April 2008, Air China launched regular, 3-days-per-week, service between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Intercity trains

The city also has regular international train services to Beijing and Moscowmarker. A journey to Beijing takes about 25 hours and 25 minutes (K27 from Beijing / K28 from Pyŏngyang, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays); a journey to Moscow takes 6 days.

The city also connects to the Eurasian Land Bridge via the Trans-Siberian Railway.


Climate diagram of Pyŏngyang

Sister cities

People from Pyongyang


  1. United Nations Statistics Division; Preliminary results of the 2008 Census of Population of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted on 1-15 October 2008 (pdf-file) Retrieved on 2009-03-01.
  2. National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage. 2001. Geumtan-ri. Hanguk Gogohak Sajeon [Dictionary of Korean Archaeology], pp. 148-149. NRICH, Seoul. ISBN 89-5508-025-5
  3. Lelang-guk is different from Lelang Jun. Lelang-guk is a vassal state of China that ruled over Korean people around the Pyongyang area between a successful military campaign of Later Han (25 AD - 220 AD)and 313 AD. Lelang Jun was one of the four Juns that Former Han instituted in the occupied territory of Wimanjoseon around the Liaohe river in western Manchuria in 108 BC.
  4. Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (Princeton University Press, 2009: ISBN 978-0-691-13589-2), p. 104.
  5. Also Administrative divisions of North Korea (used as reference for hanja)

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Chris Springer, Pyongyang: The Hidden History of the North Korean Capital. Saranda Books, 2003. ISBN 963-00-8104-0.
  • Robert Willoughby, North Korea: The Bradt Travel Guide. Globe Pequot, 2003. ISBN 1-84162-074-2.


  • Christian Kracht, Eva Munz, Lukas Nikol, "The Ministry Of Truth. Kim Jong Ils North Korea", Feral House, Oct 2007, 132 pages, 88 color photographs, ISBN 978-932595-27-7

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