Nothing epitomizes the conundrum that is North Korea better than the Ryugyong Hotel in the capital city of Pyongyang. It would have been the world’s tallest hotel, had it been completed on time. Instead it has merely become yet another symbol of North Korea’s lofty ambitions and subsequent failure achieve them.
Construction started in 1987 with a planned opening date in July of 1989. However by 1992 it was still nothing more than an empty shell and construction was halted for a myriad of reasons, including structural, financial, and economic issues.
For 16 years it remained a local eyesore while the North Korean government played coy and denied its existence, much like the Americans and Area 51 except for the fact that this structure sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of the capital city. During that time it developed a bad reputation by the few in the know.
Thankfully in the summer of 2008 construction resumed, now financed by an Egyptian construction and telecommunications company who recently provided the DPRK their first 3G cellphone service. Wishful thinking had the Ryungyong set to open in time for their centennial holiday on April 15th, 2012, but once again the opening date has been overshot.
With a tentative opening now set for 2015 one has to wonder if this project will be completed before entering into its fourth decade of construction.
There is hope, however. Two weeks ago a select group was given a tour, revealing that despite the recent shine to the outside the interior is still nothing but cement. Check out these brand new pictures below, courtesy of Koryo Tours, the premiere DPRK tourism agency.
So there you have it, folks, the Ryugyong Hotel. With the overall cost at an estimated $1.1 billion dollars (US) and nearly 30 years under construction, North Korea is nonetheless quite proud of it’s cement fortress. While I personally feel that the country has much more urgent issues to address, that does in the slightest diminish my obsession with this hotel (and reclusive country).