One day in October 1973, President Kim Il Sung was enjoying a bird’s-eye view of Pyongyang from Moran Hill.
“What do you think should be built over there?” he asked the accompanying officials, pointing towards Namsan Hill.
The officials were stuck for a reply, for they knew the history of the site.
Decades before, when the blueprint for the postwar reconstruction of Pyongyang was being worked out, the President had directed the layout with Namsan Hill as the axis. But he had insisted on leaving the hill vacant. It really was an enviable site, for it commanded an open view of the Taedong River in front, the Munsu Plain beyond, and the scenic spot of Moran Hill to the left.
Many buildings had since appeared around the vacant hill.
Once a designer, concerned for the site, submitted a plan for an impressive government building to be erected there. But Kim Il Sung rejected it immediately. He said there and then: Why should a government building, instead of a public building for the people, be constructed on such a good site in downtown Pyongyang?
The officials knew the President’s attachment to the site, and they had not a ready answer to his question.
He said that the central square should be used for a building for the people, such as a museum, public hall, library or palace of culture.
Two months later, in mid-December, the President climbed the hill. Saying that it was high time to use the site, he proposed building a big library there, now that there were already a palace of culture and a students and children’s palace in Pyongyang. The children would study in their palace and the adults would study in this library, he remarked. “If a library is built here, the people will welcome it,” he said.
This was how a magnificent building of Korean architectural style appeared on the hill, and Kim Il Sung named it the Grand People’s Study House.