Destinations Asia

North Korea builds world’s tallest hotel to funnel foreign currency into the economy

Nov 02, 2012 11:24 am

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Kim Jong Un has revitalized efforts to build the 105-story hotel to attract foreign tourists and their currencies into the country, which is facing toughing political and trade sanctions from foreign countries.

— Samantha Shankman

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Joseph Ferris III  / Flickr.com

A view of the the Pyongyang skyline in North Korea. Joseph Ferris III / Flickr.com


The 105-story, pyramid-shaped hotel that has stood over North Korea’s capital city like a mountain for more than 20 years just might be on the verge of opening for the first time.

Pyongyang’s Ryugyong Hotel will “partially, probably” open in the middle of next year, Reto Wittwer, CEO of international hotel operator Kempinski AG, said Thursday at a forum in Seoul.

Kempinski will manage the hotel, which Wittwer said will open with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms.

The enormous hotel has been a source of fascination and ridicule for the outside world and an oversized embarrassment for North Korea’s authoritarian regime.

North Korea began building the Ryugyong in the 1980s but stopped when funding ran out in the 1990s. Exterior construction resumed in 2009.

Various reports in recent years said the hotel was preparing to finally open. In September, a Beijing-based tour agency was allowed to peek inside and released pictures of the bare concrete lobby.

Wittwer said he first saw a picture of the hotel many years ago and thought then that it could eventually make a lot of money.

He said Cairo-based Orascom Telecom is funding the construction. The firm launched a mobile network in North Korea in 2008.

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