Kim Il-sung Square gets a [relatively] new look

This is a joint-post with Tad Farrell (

Although North Korean television has yet to profile the recent changes made to the appearance of Kim Il-sung square, we have put the pieces together from a mix of recent tourist photos.

To begin with, the large painting of an austere-looking Kim Il-sung which overlooked the square for decades has been taken down. In addition, the banners featuring the symbol of the Korean Workers’ Party (which flanked the painting of Kim) have been replaced with DPRK national flags.

Top: Removal of Kim Il-sung painting [Before (R), After (L)]
Bottom: Korean Workers Party drape replaced with DPRK flag [Before (R), After(L)]

Kim Il-sung’s image is not absent from the square, however. Newly mounted to the base of the square’s official observation platform are paintings of a now jovial Kim Il-sung joined by a new painting of Kim Jong-il.

Two new portraits replace the previously austere profile of Kim Il-sung

More interestingly, it appears that the square’s paintings of Marx and Lenin have been permanently removed, as first tweeted about by AP’s Jean Lee earlier this summer.

Marx and Lenin no longer adorn the square

Just how long the paintings would remain in the square has been a subject of speculation for years. Beginning in the 1970s Marxism-Leninism was deemphasized in favor of Juche, Kim Il-sung ideology, and Kimilsungism. In 1980 the Workers’ Party’s Sixth Convention formally struck “Marxim-Leninism” from the party charter and amended it to read “The Korean Workers’ Party struggles to practice Kim Il-sung’s ideology”. Finally, as part of the constitutional changes that were announced in 2009, Articles 29 and 40 were amended so they no longer referred to “공산주의” (Communism). The paintings of Marx and Lenin remained through all of this.  It is unclear why now they are no longer appropriate.

UPDATE: Andrei Lankov has written more extensive comments on the DPRK’s treatment of Marxism in  in the Asia Times.



Comments are closed.