There stands a lowish old-time building opposite the Ryongwang Pavilion in sharp contrast to skyscrapers in the heart of Pyongyang. In front of it is a bust of a plain woman.
She lost her father at the age of seven, got married to a poor man at 14 and was widowed at 16.
She had nothing but a house inherited from her mother and toiled and moiled to make her living. Although she was in her 20s, she showed no interest in fancy clothes and makeup and led a frugal life without doing any holidaymaking.
She became a wealthy person in the South Phyongan provincial area after selling a forlorn stony mountain, which she had bought very cheap, to a Japanese capitalist at an exorbitant price.
This story was spread like a tale of legendary exploit among people as the ordinary woman made fabulous profits in a deal with the slick Japanese businessman in those days when women were treated as inferior to men.
Though she was a millionaire, she was still diligent and thrifty.
And she donated large sums of money she had earned with so much effort for the good of people.
Her first donation went to the construction of a bridge.
As she saw people inconveniently crossing a shabby wooden bridge due to flood, she decided to fund the building of the stone bridge. When the bride was completed in 1914, people called her Paek Son Haeng in praise of her virtue and named the bridge Paekson Bridge.
Once she happened to know that a community centre in Pyongyang was exclusive to Japanese. Much indignant at that, she proposed building a community centre for the fellow countrymen together with influential persons and bore the full cost of the project amounting to tens of thousands of won.
As a result, the three-storey stone building was erected opposite the Ryongwang Pavilion and now it is called the Paek Son Haeng Memorial.
She also made sizeable investment for the development of national education. The then schools in Pyongyang like Kwangsong primary school, Changdok school and Sungui women’s school are said to have been run with the dozens of hectares of land and huge sums she donated as assets.
Paek Son Haeng passed away at the age of 85 in 1933.
It is said that the funeral procession stretched for as far as four kilometres on the day of her funeral.
The inscription on the pedestal of her bust reads: “Patriotic woman who commanded respect from the people as she completely donated huge sums of money she raised through unimaginable diligence, frugality and saving for the good of her nation and country”