Written By: JEH
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
The Ryugyong Hotel, also known as Yu-Kyung Hotel, is an abandoned building located in Pyongyang, North Korea. Sometimes referred to as the 105 Building, the hotel stands at 1,080 feet (330 meters) and has a total of 105 floors.
The construction of Ryugyong Hotel, named after a historical moniker for Pyongyang meaning “capital of willows”, began in 1987. However, up until this day, the building remains unfinished due to a number of unfortunate circumstances. Because of this, the building is often called the “Hotel of Doom”.
The History of the Ryugyong Hotel
In 1986, North Korea planned to create a hotel that would defeat the newly-opened Westin Stamford Hotel in Singapore, which was completed by the South Korea firm SsangYong Group. Thus, the establishment of the Ryugyong Hotel Investment and Management. Their aim was to attract an expected $230 million in foreign investment.
The construction of the hotel started in 1987, headed by North Korean construction firm Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers. The team aimed to finish the pyramid-shaped hotel before 1992 and scheduled the opening at the same time as the 80th birthday of President Kim Il-Sung.
However, a lot of factors did not go according to the plan, delaying the completion of the hotel. Had it opened on schedule, it would have beaten the Westin Stamford on the title of “the world’s tallest hotel” at that time.
Halting the Construction of the Ryugyong Hotel
The construction of the hotel was halted in 1992 due to the economic crisis in North Korea following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several newspapers estimated that the building would need a total of $750 million to finish. So for over a decade, the building was left a massive concrete shell.
During the long hiatus, the North Korean government attempted to hide the existence of the “embarrassing” Ryugyong Hotel even though it dominated the Pyongyang skyline. There are also reported instances of the government manipulating photos to remove the building from official photographs of North Korea.
The mystery behind the building led foreign media to dub it “the worst building in the world”, “Hotel of Doom”, and “Phantom Hotel”.
The Resumption of Construction
In April 2008, Egyptian construction firm Orascom Group resumed the work on the building. The firm said that the hotel will finally be finished by 2012, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Eternal President Kim Il-sung.
The firm was eager to push through with the original plans for the hotel, including the revolving restaurant, thousands of guest rooms, and business facilities.
In 2011, the exterior of the hotel was complete. A year later, photographs of the interior of the hotel were released, showing few fixtures and furnishings. However, the scheduled 2012 opening was later moved to 2013.
Canceled Opening, Again
In November 2012, the opening of the hotel was rescheduled to mid-2013. International hotel operator Kempinski later announced that plans to open the hotel were suspended. According to their released statement, plans were suspended because “market entry is not currently possible”.
However, commentators suggested that international tensions related to the 2013 North Korean nuclear test, economic risks, and delays in construction might have played a part.
Unannounced Construction Activity
In 2017 and early 2018, there were signs of work at the site, with access roads being constructed. A representative of Orascom reportedly visited the country beforehand, but it is unknown whether or not the firm is involved with the resumption of the construction.
The Ryugyong Hotel, although unfinished, came back to life in 2018. Lighting designer Kim Yong Il created a light show comprised of political slogans and party symbols. It plays on the building’s surface for several hours every night.
Rumors about the hotel opening made noise in July 2019. However, releasing news or updates about the hotel proved to be dangerous for those who dared.
The Disappearance of Alek Sigley
An Australian student named Alek Sigley, who was studying for his master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University, posted a photo of the new signage above the main entrance of the hotel in June 2019. In his caption, he suggested that the hotel might open for business soon.
Shortly after the tweet, the 29-year-old Sigley reportedly disappeared on June 25. His family worried after not hearing from Sigley days after he posted the photo.
10 days after his disappearance, Sigley was released from detention in North Korea and reunited with his wife in Tokyo, Japan. Sigley refused to discuss his experience while in detention.
The Future of the Ryugyong Hotel
Not much is known about the present condition of the hotel, so it’s pretty difficult to predict what its future would be. The North Korean government forbids people from getting close to the building or even document its development.
The Ryugyong Hotel is still one of the most mysterious buildings in the world, and only time will tell whether we’ll see it completed.
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