Written by Zoe Stephens
At 330 meters (1,080 ft), the Ryugyong hotel building stands prominently on the skyline of Pyongyang, North Korea. With its mysterious air, and what the BBC described as a ”reminder of the totalitarian state’s thwarted ambition”, it has become a landmark for the city and great talking point in various foreign media outlets. It has since been described as “the worst building in the world”,”Hotel of Doom” and “Phantom Hotel”. Its name in Korean means “Capital of willows“, which is also one of the historical names for Pyongyang.
The Ryugyong Hotel was originally set to be completed in 1989 to coincide with the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in June. Needless to say, this deadline wasn’t met. Had it been achieved, the building would have held the title of “world’s tallest hotel”, and the 7th tallest building in the world. In fact, it was only in 2009 that Dubai’s Rose Tower surpassed the building’s height.
The structure boasts an impressive 105 floors and 360,000 m² (3.9 million ft²) floor space. According to original plans, facilities would include five revolving restaurants, 3,000 or 7,665 guest rooms (according to different sources), nightclubs, and a casino. The Japanese government estimated construction costs at a total of $750 million. This would have consumed 2% of North Korea’s GDP.
Two decades later, and the structure stands deserted and incomplete.
1987 – Construction begins
Construction begins as a response to the completion of the world’s tallest hotel in Singapore (Westin Stamford Hotel). North Korea hopes for a boost in economy and foreign investment at over $230 million. They promise relaxed oversight in operation of night clubs and casinos.
1989 – Scheduled opening halted
Issues with construction and building materials (or lack of) halted original deadline.
1992 – Economic crisis
The structure reaches full architectural height. However, construction is put on hold after the collapse of the Soviet Union and proceeding economic crisis.
Late 1990s – Structure deemed “irreparable”
An inspection from the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea concludes that the structure is irreparable.
2008 – Construction resumes
Following 16 years of inactivity, Egyptian company Orascom Group resumes work on the
2009 – On track again
A statement from Orascom’s Chief Operating Officer makes the statement that they haven’t had “too many problems” and have resolved previous reports of structural issues.
2011 – Exterior complete
The building loses its concrete base shell and is kitted out with glass panels and telecommunications antennas.
South Korea estimates that further work and completion of the hotel would cost $2 billion, equalling 10% of North Korea’s annual GDP.
2012 – Incomplete interior
Hotel to be run by international hotel operator Kempinski. Kempinski announces partial opening plans in mid-2013.
First images of the interior are released by Koryo Tours showing incomplete interiors with very few fixtures or furnishings.
2013 – Plans suspended indefinitely
Further plans to open hotel suspended. Kempinski retracted earlier statements clarifying that early discussions never took place and that they hadn’t signed any contracts
2017 – Signs of activity?
Since 2013, no major activity has been observed on the construction site. Due to the current climate and North Korea’s increasing number of missile tests, foreign investors have largely remained at bay. However, sightings of few army conscripts working on the site have been reported.
Could we finally be finally seeing the start to the end of this infamous structures construction?
Want the chance to see the building with your own eyes?