Ryugyong Hotel: North Korea’s Failed Attempt At Luxury

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.

Explore inside of Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea's failed attempt at a #luxury #hotel in the capital city 😂 #travel #pyongyang #northkorea #korea #architecture #travelphotography #dprk

  Ryugyong Hotel History

Construction started in 1987 with a planned opening date in July of 1989. However by 1992 the hotel was still nothing more than an empty shell and construction was halted for a myriad of reasons, including structural, financial, and economic issues.

The infamous Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea
The infamous Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, the tallest building in North Korea

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.

A crane sits unused out front of the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea
A crane sits unused out front of the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea

  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 in Pyongyang, the tallest building in the entire country. With the overall cost at an estimated $1.1 billion USD 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 this reclusive country).

Provided it does one day open, I would love to be one of its first guests 🙂

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

7 thoughts on “Ryugyong Hotel: North Korea’s Failed Attempt At Luxury”

  1. what’s the point of spending billions and billions of dollars on 1) an incomplete hotel when your tourism industry is almost non-existent and 2) your population is starving. That’s what I think.. =S

    – Maria Alexandra


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