Ryugyong Hotel: Is North Korea's 105-storey 'Hotel of Doom' finally set to open?

Anthony Pearce
Ryugyong Hotel has laid empty for 30 years (AP)

The tallest unoccupied building in the world, North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel, may finally open its doors — over 30 years after construction began.

According to reports, work has restarted on the 330m, 105-storey pyramid — nicknamed the Hotel of Doom — that looms above Pyongyang.

Construction began in capital in 1987 under, Kim Il-Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-Un, although rumours persist that the building is not structurally sound.

Originally, the building was due to open in 1989, when it would have been the tallest hotel in the world, and one of the largest skyscrapers.

However, construction issues, reportedly due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, thwarted that effort and it has remained unopened and unused ever since.

These pictures, taken in September 2012, show interiors to be completed empty (Simon Cockerell)

Work to the exterior of the building restarted in 2008, with the hotel set to open 2012, but it remained shut.

In December last year, Pyongyang locals reported that they had seen lights on in the building, and reports suggest a new walkway has been added outside the hotel.

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However, Simon Cockerell, who is general manager of Koryo Tours, which operates tours to the country, has said that the reports may be exaggerated.

“The reports seem to be based on a handful of photos that show that one wall around the construction site has been taken down. But it’s perhaps a bit of a leap to say that it’s nearly finished,” he told Yahoo News.

Ryugyong Hotel was supposed to open in 1989 and then 2012 (Simon Cockerell)

Cockerell, who has visited the country more than 170 times, and was last inside the hotel in September 2012, said that he has never seen truck transporting building materials to or from the hotel.

“Maybe they have been doing some light work, but as you can see from the pictures I took, a lot of work still needed to be done,” he said.

Cockerell also notes that in North Korea it is customary to put a red flag outside any building where building work is taking place.

He said that there was one in 2008, which must have been taken down after exterior work was completed in 2012, but none appears to have been put since.

In May, he 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.”

He added: “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.’

“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.”

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