Next April, North Korea plans to partially open the Ryugyong Hotel, a quarter century after ground was first broken for its construction. The new opening date coincides with the 100th birthday of North Korea’s founding father, the late Kim Il-sung.
The Ryugyong has been referred to in the international press as the ‘Hotel of Doom‘ and "the worst building in the world". During its intitial construction phase, which began in 1982, the clunky but imposing outer space pyramid dwarfed its neighbors on the Pyongyang skyline and had been honored on stamps. But by 1992, continuing to mirror the state of North Korean affairs, the completed but empty 1,080 foot shell was underfunded, abandoned and airbrushed out of official photos.
Through the years of neglect, the 105-story Ryugyong’s potential as the highest hotel in the world was surpassed four times by taller (completed) hotels and, though it once might have been the 7th largest skyscraper, it currently ties at #40.
The resurrection of the Ryugyong is said to come as a result of resumed funding by the Egyptian Orascom Group. It’s been reported that new construction has already begun and that the forthcoming hotel might boast as many as five rotating restaurants. Critics may argue that North Korea could make better use of the 2 billion dollars it could cost to bring the Ryugyong back to life. But if all goes according to plan this time, the Ryugyong Hotel will soon be an enigma in a country not especially known for its hospitality industry.
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.| Passport |