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Ryugyong Hotel

Pyongyang, North Korea
1 of 14Aeronet

The Ryugyong Hotel (Korean: 류경호텔) (sometimes anglicized as Ryu-Gyong Hotel or Yu-Kyung Hotel) is a topped-out 105-storey skyscraper under construction in Pyongyang, North Korea. Its name Capital of Willows is also one of the historic names for Pyongyang. The building is also known as the 105 Building, a reference to its number of floors.


Construction began in 1987 with planned completion in 1989. However, after several delays, construction was eventually halted in 1992; the fall of the Soviet Union had resulted in widespread economic disruptions in North Korea and shortages of raw materials. The hotel stood topped out but without windows or interior fittings for the next sixteen years. The construction resumed in April 2008 under the supervision of the Orascom Group of Egypt, which has invested heavily in the North Korean mobile telephony and construction industries. The company expected to complete exterior work on the building in 2010, with interior work on the hotel's 360,000 square meters of floor space taking until 2012 or later.

The hotel rises to a height of 330 meters, making it the most prominent feature of Pyongyang's skyline and by far the largest structure in North Korea. Construction of the Ryugyong was intended to be completed in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in June 1989; had this been achieved, it would have held the title of world's tallest hotel. The unfinished building was not surpassed in height by any new hotel until the 2009 completion of the spire atop the Rose Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Ryugyong remains the only hotel in the world with more than 100 stories, and it is currently the world's 35th tallest building (alongside the China World Trade Center Tower III) in terms of total height and has the 4th highest number of floors.

Structure And Program

The Ryugyong Hotel consists of three wings, each measuring 100 meters long, 18 metres wide, and sloped at a 75-degree angle, which converge at a common point to form a pinnacle. The building is topped by a truncated cone 40 metres wide, consisting of eight floors that are intended to rotate, topped by a further six static floors. The structure was originally intended to house five revolving restaurants, and either 3,000 or 7,665 guest rooms, according to different sources. The Ryugyong is planned to become a mixed-use development, including "revolving restaurant" facilities along with "a mixture of hotel accommodation, apartments and business facilities" according to BBC quoting Orascom's Mr. Bichra. Other sources have hinted on the future multi-purpose nature of Ryugyong, including one quoting that Ryugyong's "3,000 rooms, offices, restaurants, nightclubs and banquet halls remain hollow shells."


The plan for a large hotel was reportedly a Cold War response to the completion of the world's tallest hotel, the Westin Stamford Hotel in Singapore, in 1986 by the South Korean company SsangYong Group. North Korean leadership envisioned the project as a channel for Western investors to step into the marketplace. A firm, the Ryugyong Hotel Investment and Management Co., was established to attract a hoped-for US$230 million in foreign investment. A representative for the North Korean government promised relaxed oversight, saying, "The foreign investors can even operate casinos, nightclubs or Japanese lounges if they want to."

Building Deadlock

The hotel was scheduled to open in June 1989 for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, but problems with building methods and materials delayed completion. Had it opened on schedule, it would have surpassed the Westin Stamford Hotel to become the world's tallest hotel, and been ranked the seventh-tallest building in the world.

In 1992, after the building had reached its full architectural height, work was halted due to a lack of funds amid electricity and food shortages in North Korea. Japanese newspapers estimated the cost of construction was US$750 million, consuming 2 percent of North Korea’s GDP. For over a decade, the unfinished building sat vacant and without windows, fixtures, or fittings, appearing as a massive concrete shell. A rusting construction crane at the top, which the BBC called "a reminder of the totalitarian state's thwarted ambition", became a permanent fixture. In the late 1990s, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea inspected the building and concluded that the structure was irreparable. Questions have been raised regarding the quality of the building's concrete and the alignment of its elevator shafts, which some sources say are "crooked".

In a 2006 article, ABC News questioned whether North Korea had sufficient raw materials or energy for such a massive project. A North Korean government official told the Los Angeles Times in 2008 that construction was not completed "because North Korea ran out of money". Even though the Ryugyong dominates the Pyongyang skyline, official information regarding the hotel and its status have proven difficult to obtain. Though mocked-up images of the completed hotel had once appeared on North Korean stamps, the North Korean government denied the building's existence for many years. The government manipulated official photographs in order to remove the structure, and excluded it from printed maps of Pyongyang. The alleged problems associated with the hotel led some media sources to dub it "The Worst Building in the World", "Hotel of Doom" and "Phantom Hotel".

Construction resumes

In April 2008, after 16 years of inactivity, work on the building was restarted by the Egyptian company Orascom Group. Orascom, which has entered into a US$ 400 million deal with the North Korean government to build and run a 3G mobile phone network, has denied that their telecommunications deal was directly related to the Ryugyong Hotel work.

It is unclear to what extent Orascom plans to complete the building. In 2008, Orascom's resident project manager stated that, at a minimum, their goal was to make the facade more attractive. In 2009, Orascom's chief operating officer Khaled Bichara noted that they "had not had too many problems" resolving the reported structural issues of the building, that interior work will be performed, and that a revolving restaurant will be located at the top of the building. In July 2011, it was reported that the exterior work is complete. Features that Orascom has installed include exterior glass panels and telecommunications antennas. North Korean officials stated that the hotel would be completed by 2012, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of "Eternal President" Kim Il-sung. According to Orascom, interior work is to be conducted after the completion of exterior work, and the building will not be ready until 2012 or beyond.

Other Mentions

In 2006, the French artist Nicolas Moulin created a photocollage titled Askiatower which features the abandoned Ruygong Hotel in a desertic landscape in Iceland. In 2007 he travelled to North Korea at the invitation of the Louis Vuitton gallery space, for a five-day mission of exploration under high security surveillance. He subsequently exhibited a 3D model of the hotel at his gallery in Paris. As an extension of this work, he also produced Nachdatch (2007) which is an imaginary interior of the building which still needs to see completion.

Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers (1987–1992)
Orascom Construction Industries (2008–present)