Devoting whole life to design of monumental structures

September 28, 2023

"There is an old saying: ‘An old man lives in memory.’ Whenever I look at the Mansudae Art Theatre and the Grand People's Study House on my way to work every morning, I relive my youth in spite of myself," said Ko Pu Ung, an adviser at the National Design Administration who is DPRK Labour Hero and Merited Designer.

Turning 81 this year, he is a meritorious designer who devoted his whole life to the design of monumental edifices in the country.

He has so far designed the Mansudae Art Theatre, Grand People's Study House, Pyongyang Acrobatic Theatre, Ice Rink, Hyangsan Hotel and other large and small buildings, several hundred in total.

“Ko Pu Ung is a passionate man who works hard to produce a good design which would be flawless even in the distant future once he is charged with a design task,” said Kim Hak Chol, section chief of the Pyongyang Urban Planning Institute.

Ko had lived in Japan before returning to the homeland in 1960. And he graduated from Pyongyang University of Architecture and became a designer of the Pyongyang Urban Planning Institute as he desired.

Being regarded as a promising designer by experts for having produced excellent designs several times from the beginning, he was assigned the task of designing the Mansudae Art Theatre to be built in the heart of Pyongyang.

Feeling proud of being one of lead designers of an important national project, he drew every line and point in the design of his part with great care to make it look modern and more gorgeous than the theatres built earlier.

He burned the midnight oil for several days to finish the design, but his design was bitterly criticized by the old designers and jury members as a gewgaw design that disagreed with the requirements of the times and the sentiments of the people.

 “That day I was full of remorse for what I had done and so could not sleep all night. I keenly realized that I could produce nothing new without knowing the thoughts and feelings of the people and the spirit of the times,” said Ko Pu Ung as he recalled the time when he had even thought of giving up the design he had so much hoped for.

But he thought that if he quit, it would be ungrateful to the country which took care of him in its warm embrace and did him every favour and be as good as betraying the trust of the university lecturers and friends who showed him brotherly affection. So, he resumed the design from the beginning with redoubled efforts.

He put his heart and soul into the design of every detail from the roof to show the racing pulse of the country and national flavour. The old designers offered valuable help to his work.

At last, the design of the Mansudae Art Theatre, which is national in form and socialist in content, was completed and the theatre was built splendidly.

Chairman Kim Jong Il examined the design of the theatre several times, looked round the completed Mansudae Art Theatre and praised the successful construction.

Since then, Ko Pu Ung has produced excellent designs of major projects of the country, fully demonstrating his ability.

He had worked for a long time as chief engineer of the Pyongyang Urban Planning Institute, through senior engineer and assistant chief engineer, and now has become an authority in the field of design.

"Ko Pu Ung always says to young designers that we, designers, should work hard to express their love for the country even in one point or line of the design first and write their CVs with proud creations of their own on the land of the country," said Kim Hak Chol.

In recognition of his distinguished contributions to the design of monumental structures, the country invited him to national meetings, provided a modern house in picturesque Haebangsan-dong, and sent a birthday spread to and conferred the title of Labour Hero, the highest honour for DPRK citizens, on him on his 70th birthday.


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