Sunan District, Pyongyang at the mouth of the access road leading to Pyongyang Sunan International Airport.
The mosaic depicts North Korean President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il in the foreground conducting a spot of on the spot guidance at Pyongyang Airport. Air transport was and still is used as a symbol of Korea’s modernisation and connectedness to the World; President Kim Il Sung’s first aircraft is on display at the International Friendship Exhibition and two maps at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, depict both leaders’ foreign visits by flight.
It is not sure if the image is based on an actual photograph but it is set in late 1980’s early 1990’s. The Ilyushin Il-62 pictured was the pioneer of long-range jetliners in the socialist world and it demonstrated an advanced, prosperous country both internally and internationally.
In 2012 the old airport was renovated (a number of large construction projects were started on this date to mark the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung) and the mosaic was erected around the inauguration of the rebuilt airport as a reminder of the contribution of the leaders to the development of air transport in Korea. It is likely that the decision to add the mosaic was to remind people and foreign visitors of the esteem the country holds their leaders and of the contribution to modernization.
The mosaics scale and location are designed to make it unmissable, it is placed at the end of the road where vehicles have to turn to drive the last few hundred metres to the airport.
Whilst driving pass the mosaic drivers are obliged to slow down as a mark of respect.
Mosaics of the leaders together started regularly appearing in 2012, often pictured on the rim of Mt Paektu. The portrait is animated as if the two leaders were discussing improvements or future plans of the airport, working on advancements for the country and people.
As is typical the mosaic is framed in a granite surround with an upper lip to keep rain off the image. The design uses the rule of thirds (2/3 sky 1/3 scenery) and the leaders are set against a light coloured sky for emphasis. The planes are used both for perspective but likely an allegory is used, the planes are heading towards the future as pointed out by Kim Jong Il’s hand.
These planes are now restricted from flying to Europe due to safety reasons – given their age – and now mainly operating domestic routes; however, during the summer season they can be seen time to time on the Pyongyang – Vladivostok route. Two aircrafts are operated as VIP aircrafts for the DPRK government.