Inside the giant abandoned hotel in the middle of North Korea's capital

Matilda Long
Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang (AP)

The skyline of the capital of North Korea is dominated by an enormous pyramid.

The most unusual thing about the building isn’t its vast scale, or even its pharaoh-dynasty design – it’s the fact that it’s completely empty.

The 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang took 30 years to build at a cost of an estimated £579 million.

Intended to be the world’s tallest hotel, construction began in 1987, backed by Egyptian investors.

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A tour group was permitted inside the immense shell in 2012, including Simon Cockerell, General Manager of Koryo Tours.

Simon, who has visited North Korea 161 times, told Yahoo News: ‘I’ve been to North Korea a great many times, and that building has always been part of the skyline of Pyongyang.

‘I’d always been interested in going there and had always asked about it. Somebody I know had a contact in the company that operates the building on the project management side and they arranged a visit.’

The pictures he took inside the building show unfinished concrete surfaces and scaffolding under the high, glass ceiling.

 

Simon said: ‘It’s a construction site, the atmosphere is one of exposed cement and rebar. It looks like any building site, but on an enormously different scale.’

Having returned from the country recently, he doesn’t anticipate the building will be completed any time soon.

‘There’s no real work going on there at the moment. There could be some interior work or low level work, but there’s no major construction going on.’

‘It’s been there for decades. I don’t think people are embarrassed by it. There’s a strange story that some claim that people deny it’s there but that’s absurd and entirely untrue.

‘A lot of tourists ask about it, and generally they’re just told “We started this in 1987 and due to funding problems it hasn’t been completed”, but everyone’s still hopeful it’ll be completed soon.’

While a lot of the recent construction in North Korea – including a luxury ski resort and a skyscraper-lined street in the capital – has been state funded, the hotel was built by a private company, whose coffers seem to have dried up.

Rumours swirled of an imminent opening in 2016 when lights were spotted glowing on the top floors of the hotel. But they were swiftly snuffed out, along with any possibility of a concrete completion date.

Before the funding situation is sorted, it remains the largest abandoned hotel in the world.

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