A massive building that dominates the Pyonyang skyline, the Ryungyong hotel is unique in that it is a completely empty, unused building. Construction began in 1987 and it was planned that the hotel would be completed for the 13th World Festival for Youth and Students in 1989. However delays in construction pushed the project back into the 1990’s. Then in 1992, North Korea’s economy went totally flat, and due to budget problems the building was abandoned entirely.
At 105 stories tall and 1,082 feet high, the Ryungyong Hotel is the 49th tallest building in the world, roughly as tall as the Eiffel Tower. It was the tallest hotel in the world until the construction of the Rose Tower in Dubai. It really is a wonder of engineering, if you ignore the various rumors that inferior materials and construction techniques were used. It was to be a wonder of all Asia, with 3,000 rooms, 5 restaurants, a casino, and 8 revolving floors. However by 1992, all that was constructed was steel skeleton and concrete shell. It was estimated that the project had cost over $750 million. For 16 years the Ryungyong Hotel remained an empty hulk completely untouched. It was such an embarrassment to the North Korean Government that even though it dominated the city skyline and could be seen several miles from Pyongyang, all maps were published excluding the hotel from the city.
In 2008 an Egyptian telecommunications company purchased the construction project, spending $180 million to fit exterior glass around the building and place a cell phone antenna on its top. I wonder what kind of business a telecommunications company did in a country where telecommunications are mostly illegal and off limits to the common North Korean citizen. In 2012 the German luxury hotel group Kempinski bought the hotel and continued construction. According to the company, they plan to open the hotel when and if the North Korean regime falls, or commerce is opened up to the country. So far, it does not seem like that is likely very soon. As of 2014 tours have begun, allowing limited tours of the completed sections of the hotel for North Korea’s few tourists and some high ranking officials. However, as of today, the vast majority of the Ryungyong Hotel lies completely empty.