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Pyongyang (pēyŭngˈyängˈ), Chin. Pingyang, Jap. Heijo, city (1993 pop. 2,741,260), capital of North Korea, SW North Korea, on a high bluff above the Taedong River. It is a special city with the status of province. Pyongyang, located near large iron and coal deposits, is an industrial center; products include iron and steel, machinery, armaments, aircraft, textiles, sugar, rubber, ceramics, and various light manufactures.

Korea's oldest city, Pyongyang was founded, according to legend, in 1122 B.C. by remnants of the Chinese Shang dynasty. Nearby is the reputed grave of the city's legendary founder, the Chinese scholar Ki-tze (Kija). As Lolang, the city served as capital of the Choson kingdom (300–200 B.C.) and later became (108 B.C.) a Chinese colony and an important cultural center. It was again capital under the Koguryo (77 B.C.–A.D. 668) kingdom and served as an adjunct capital during the Koryo (10th–12th cent.) dynasty.

Pyongyang fell c.1594 to the Japanese, who hoped to use it as a base for an invasion of China, but who then destroyed the city. Japanese invaders again devastated Pyongyang in 1894 and 1904. It became the capital of North Korea in 1948. Captured (1950) by UN forces during the Korean War, Pyongyang later fell to the North Koreans. After being ravaged in the war, the city was rebuilt along modern lines.

Only six gates remain of Pyongyang's former great walls. Other landmarks include three tombs (1st cent. B.C.) with remarkable murals, several old Buddhist temples, and the Grand Theatre. Pyongyang is home to many museums, libraries, theatres, and universities. Moran-bong Stadium plays an important part in the city's role as a show place for the nationalistic spectacles of the North Korean government. The 105-story Ryugyong Hotel (not yet opened) towers over the city's skyline.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the capital and largest city of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea and the country’s leading political, economic, and cultural center. Pyongyang has been designated a separate administrative unit under the jurisdiction of the central government. It is also the administrative center of Pyongyan-namdo Province. The city lies at an elevation of 300 m in a hilly area along the bank of the Taedong River, 89 km from the Yellow Sea. It has a moderate monsoonal climate, with an average annual temperature of 9.2°C. January temperatures average - 8.2°C and July temperatures, 24°C. The annual precipitation totals 922 mm. Pyongyang covers an area of 200 sq km, and its 1974 population, including suburbs, was approximately 1.5 million.

Municipal government. The city’s governing body is the people’s assembly, popularly elected for a four-year term. Below the municipal people’s assembly are ward and county people’s assemblies, elected for two-year terms. The executive organs of the people’s assemblies are people’s committees. Administrative committees are responsible for the day-to-day management of the various branches of the economy and culture. Attached to the Pyongyang administrative committee are the regional planning committee, the main board of local industry, the committee on agricultural management, the local building board, the main building board, the board of trade, and departments of health, education, and culture.

Historical sketch. One of Korea’s oldest cities, Pyongyang was the capital of the Koguryo state from 427 to 668. Under the Koryo dynasty (918–1392) the city became the country’s western capital and was renamed Sogyon. For many centuries Pyongyang was an important trade center as well as a stronghold in the struggle against foreign invaders, who included the armies of the Chinese Sui and T’ang dynasties, Khitans, Mongols, Jurchens, Manchus, and Japanese.

After foreign powers had concluded unequal treaties with the Korean government in the second half of the 19th century, capitalists from Japan, Europe, and the USA came to Pyongyang, as well as other Korean cities, in search of concessions and commercial gain. In 1899, Pyongyang was opened to foreign trade. In the early 20th century a number of industrial enterprises, chiefly Japanese, were established here for the processing of agricultural raw materials. By 1942, Pyongyang’s population had grown to 388,000, as contrasted with 30,000 at the beginning of the century. The city became the center of the national liberation and labor movements. An armed uprising broke out in 1919 under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, demonstrations were held (June 1926), and strikes occurred (the 1930 strike struggle).

After Korea’s liberation from the domination of Japanese imperialism in 1945, Pyongyang became a base of operations for the democratic forces of the Korean people. In February 1946 the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea was formed in the city. The committee instituted agrarian reforms, nationalized the city’s industries and banks, and democratized political life, thereby abolishing the vestiges of the colonial regime and opening the way to socialism. With the proclamation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea in September 1948, Pyongyang became the center of the struggle for the peaceful unification of the country. In the war that lasted from 1950 to 1953 the city was heavily damaged. After the termination of military operations, the city was rebuilt and modernized through the efforts of the Korean people, assisted by the socialist countries.


Economy. The economic growth of Pyongyang has been facilitated by its advantageous geographic location in the heart of an agricultural region and at the crossroads of important transportation routes. In the years of people’s rule Pyongyang has become an industrial center with a diversified output. (In the past industry was dominated by light industry and food processing.) Machine building has developed especially rapidly; the leading products are precision, textile, and transportation machinery and measuring instruments. Electrical engineering, another growing industry, is represented by the Kim Jeong Thae Pyongyang Electric Locomotive Factory. Meanwhile, the traditional branches have also been expanding, including textiles (the Pyongyang Textile Works, the country’s largest textile factory), food processing (the Yongseong Meat-packing Plant), and chemicals. Nearby coal deposits provide fuel for the city’s steam power plant. Together with its nearby satellite cities, Pyongyang forms a major industrial region that includes the Kangson Steel Works, the nonferrous metallurgy plant in Nampo, the Keumseong Tractor Plant, the Taean Electrical Machinery Plant, and the country’s largest cement plant and brickyard.

Several railroads and highways pass through Pyongyang, connecting the northern, southern, western, and eastern parts of the country, as well as the coasts of the Yellow and Japan seas. The stretch between Pyongyang and Sinuiju was electrified in 1964. Since 1954 there has been direct railroad service between Pyongyang, Peking, and Moscow. Some 23 km northwest of Pyongyang is the Sunan international airport. The Taedong River is navigable along stretches, and Nampo serves as Pyongyang’s port on the Yellow Sea. The city’s first subway line was put into operation in 1973.


City planning and architecture. On the right bank of the Tae-dong lies the city’s old section, once surrounded by a fortress wall. Remains of the old fortifications include the eastern gate, called Taedongmun (third century, rebuilt in the 17th century and restored during the 1950’s), the western gate, known as Po-tongmun (tenth century, rebuilt in the 15th century and restored during the 1950’s), and an observation tower, now the Yeonggwanjeon Pavilion (built in 1111, rebuilt in the 17th century and restored during the 1950’s). Large modern administrative and public buildings have been built in this part of the city. On the left bank lies the city’s industrial district, with a radial layout, founded in the early 20th century.

The northeastern part of the city, the terminus of the Keum-soosan Ridge, is dominated by the Moran-bong hill, where are found such architectural landmarks as the Eulmildae observation tower (third century, rebuilt in the 14th century and restored during the 1950’s), the Ch’ilseonmoon gate (tenth century, rebuilt in the 18th century and restored in the 1950’s), and the Chaeseundae summerhouse (third and fourth centuries, restored in the 1950’s). Moran-bong now constitutes the Municipal Park of Culture and Recreation.

Prior to the 20th century Pyongyang was a city of small houses with inner courtyards and terraces. Large-scale construction projects were undertaken after the formation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. In accordance with a general plan for the reconstruction of Pyongyang, adopted in 1953, new squares, such as the Kim II-sung Square, and new streets were laid out, and apartment houses were erected, including high-rise buildings. Among the largest public facilities built between the 1950’s and the early 1970’s are the Kim II-sung State University, the Railroad Station (1957), the Grand Theater (1960), the Pyongyang Hotel (1960), the Pyongyang Palace of Students and Pioneers (1963), the Radio Station (1963–64), the Museum of the Korean Revolution (1972), the Sports Palace (1973), the Subway (first six stations opened in 1973), the People’s Palace of Culture (1974), and the Museum of Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War (1974). New industrial methods are being used in construction, and national traditions are being incorporated.

Among the city’s outstanding monuments are the Liberation Monument, erected in memory of the soldiers of the Soviet Army (1947), the Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of the Korean People’s Army (1959), the Chollima (1961), and the Kim II-sung Statue and Monument to the Revolutionary Liberation Struggle (1972) in front of the Museum of the Korean Revolution. Parks include the Youth Park at the foot of Moran-bong and the Taeseongsan Park on the outskirts of the city. Near Pyongyang are numerous tombs from the Koguryo period, of which the most famous are Pyokhwanboon and Sasinch’on.

Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. In Pyongyang are the Academy of Sciences of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, the Academy of Social Sciences, the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Academy of Forestry. The leading higher educational institutions are the University of Pyongyang and the Kim Chaek Polytechnical College. The city has institutes of medicine, education, light industry, transport, irrigation, agriculture, communications, civil engineering, commerce, foreign languages, fine arts, drama and cinematography, choreography, and physical education. The largest libraries are the State Central Library and the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea.

Among outstanding museums are the Central Historical Museum, the Museum of the Korean Revolution, the Museum of Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War, the Ethnographic Museum, and the Central Fine Arts Museum. The most important theaters are the Grand Theater, the Chollima State Dramatic Theater, the Moran-bong Theater, and the Pyongyang Art Theater. The city also has a conservatory and a circus.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, P'yong-yang
the capital of North Korea, in the southwest on the Taedong River: industrial centre; university (1946). Pop.: 3 284 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005