There have been two previous attempts to open it to the public. Third time lucky, perhaps
One day before Kim Yong-un’s regime test-launched its second ballistic missile, the Ryugyong Hotel – the world’s tallest abandoned building – hung a propaganda poster from its walls. The message: ‘Rocket Power Nation’
North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel is 330 metres high, with 150 floors and 3,000 rooms. And it hasn’t hosted a single guest since construction began in 1987 under Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung. The fact that North Korea is not exactly a tourist hotspot isn’t the only reason the place has remained empty: due to a lack of funds the pharaonic endeavour was never completed.
The regime’s aim was to build the world’s tallest hotel, but the severe recession and famines of the 1990s left the country without the money to plough into the hotel’s construction. For over a decade, the skyscraper was little more than a huge concrete windowless pyramid, giving it the dubious distinction of being the world’s tallest empty building. Critics gave it the nickname ‘The Hotel of Doom’, with many questioning whether the building was structurally sound.
In 2008, Egypt’s Orascom Group rode to the rescue. In exchange for being granted permission to establish a mobile phone system in the country, the company invested 400 million dollars in the building. The North Korean government denied that there was any connection between the recommencement in construction and the installation of the 3G network.
By the end of 2011, the construction of the exterior was finally completed. Orascom added glass panels to the exterior of the building, as well as communication antennae, but there was still no sign of furnishings, or of the projects – a revolving restaurant, casinos and shopping centres – that had been promised by the ‘eternal president’ Kim Il-Sung.
Now his grandson, King Jong-un, has launched a propaganda campaign suggesting that the hotel could finally be opened. A day before the regime test-launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile, a number of ‘soldier-builders’ were seen at the site, along with heavy equipment. A propaganda poster was hung on one of the walls with the words ‘Rocket Power Nation’.
In the nineties, when construction was paralysed and North Korea was in a state of famine, the building hosted another propaganda billboard aimed at boosting the moral of the citizens: ‘Let us fight together heroically’.
There have been two previous attempts to open the hotel. The first in 2013 and the second in 2016. Will it be a case of ‘third time lucky’ for the communist regime? Or is this new propaganda as empty as the hotel has been all these years? The world’s tallest empty building has already cost more than $600m.