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Ryugyong Hotel

Coordinates: 39°02′12″N 125°43′51″E / 39.03667°N 125.73083°E / 39.03667; 125.73083
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Ryugyong Hotel
The Ryugyong Hotel in August 27, 2011
General information
StatusNever completed
Architectural styleNeo-futurism
LocationRyugyong-dong, Potonggang-guyok, Pyongyang, North Korea
Coordinates39°02′12″N 125°43′51″E / 39.03667°N 125.73083°E / 39.03667; 125.73083
Construction started28 August 1987[1]
Estimated completionUnknown
(exterior construction completed: 14 July 2011)
Roof330.02 metres (1,082.7 ft)[2]
Technical details
Floor countAbove ground 105, underground 3[2]
Floor area360,000 m2 (3,900,000 sq ft)[2]
Design and construction
Architect(s)Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers[1]
DeveloperOrascom Group
Other information
Public transit access   Hyǒksin: Kŏnsŏl
Ryugyong Hotel
Revised RomanizationRyugyeong Hotel
McCune–ReischauerRyugyŏng Hot'el

The Ryugyong Hotel (Korean류경호텔; sometimes spelled as Ryu-Gyong Hotel), or Yu-Kyung Hotel,[3] is an unfinished 1,080 ft (330 meter) tall pyramid-shaped skyscraper in Pyongyang, North Korea. Its name ("capital of willows," 柳京 in Hanja) is also one of the historical names for Pyongyang.[4] The building has been planned as a mixed-use development, which would include a hotel.

Construction began in 1987 but was halted in 1992 as North Korea entered a period of economic crisis after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. After 1992, the building stood topped out, but without any windows or interior fittings. In 2008, construction resumed, and the exterior was completed in 2011. The hotel was planned to open in 2012, the centenary of founding leader Kim Il Sung's birth. A partial opening was announced for 2013, but this was cancelled.[5] In 2018, an LED display was fitted to one side, which is used to show propaganda animations and film scenes.[6]


Outlines of various pyramids overlaid on top of on another to show relative height
Comparison of approximate profiles of the Ryugyong Hotel with some notable pyramidal or near-pyramidal buildings. Dotted lines indicate original heights, where data is available. In its SVG file, hover over a pyramid to highlight and click for its article.

The Ryugyong Hotel is 330 m (1,080 ft) tall,[7] making it the most prominent feature of Pyongyang's skyline and the tallest building in North Korea.[8] Construction of the Ryugyong Hotel was intended to be completed in time for the 80th birthday of General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and President Kim Il Sung in 1992;[9] if this had been achieved, it would have held the title of world's tallest hotel.[10] Before Goldin Finance 117 in China, it was considered the tallest unoccupied building in the world.[11][12]

The building consists of three wings, each measuring 100 m (330 ft) long and 18 m (59 ft) wide, lightly stepped once but otherwise sloping at 75 degrees to the ground,[13] which converge at a common point to form a pinnacle. The building is topped by a truncated cone 40 m (130 ft) 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.[14][15] According to Orascom's Khaled Bichara in 2009, the Ryugyong will not be just a hotel, but rather a mixed-use development, including "revolving restaurant" facilities along with a "mixture of hotel accommodation, apartments and business facilities".[16]

Construction history




The plan for a large hotel was reportedly a Cold War response to the completion of the world's then-tallest hotel, the Westin Stamford Hotel in Singapore, in 1986 by the South Korean company SsangYong Group.[17] North Korean leadership envisioned the project as a channel for Western investors to step into the marketplace.[17] A firm, The Ryugyong Hotel Investment and Management, was established to attract a hoped-for $230 million in foreign investment.[17] A representative for the North Korean government promised relaxed oversight, allowing "foreign investors [to] operate casinos, nightclubs or Japanese lounges".[17] North Korean construction firm Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers (also known as Baekdu Mountain Architects and Engineers) began construction on a pyramid‑shaped hotel in 1987.[1][18]

The hotel was originally scheduled to open in 1992 for the 80th birthday of Kim, but problems with building methods and materials delayed completion.[19] If it had opened on schedule, it would have surpassed the Westin Stamford to become the world's tallest hotel,[20] and would have been the seventh-tallest building in the world.[2]


Construction of the hotel was on hold between 1992 and 2008. Had it been completed on schedule, it would have been the tallest hotel in the world at the time.

In 1992, after the building had reached its full architectural height,[2] work was halted due to the economic crisis in North Korea following the collapse of the Soviet Union.[16] Japanese newspapers estimated the cost of construction was $750 million,[21] consuming 2 percent of North Korea's GDP.[13] For over a decade, the unfinished building sat vacant and without windows, fixtures, or fittings, appearing as a massive concrete shell.[2] A rusting construction crane remained at the top, which the BBC called "a reminder of the totalitarian state's thwarted ambition".[16][22] According to Marcus Noland, in the late 1990s, the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea inspected the building and concluded that the structure was irreparable.[23] Questions were raised regarding the quality of the building's concrete and the alignment of its elevator shafts, which some sources said were "crooked".[16][15]

In a 2006 article, ABC News questioned whether North Korea had sufficient raw materials or energy for such a massive project.[20] A North Korean government official told the Los Angeles Times in 2008 that construction was not completed "because [North Korea] ran out of money".[24]

Though mocked-up images of the completed hotel had appeared on North Korean stamps during the initial construction period, the North Korean government ignored the building's existence during the construction hiatus even though it dominated the Pyongyang skyline. The government manipulated official photographs in order to remove the unfinished structure from the skyline, and excluded it from printed maps of Pyongyang.[20][24][16]

The halt in construction, the rumours of problems and the mystery about its future led foreign media sources to dub it "the worst building in the world",[13][25] "Hotel of Doom" and "Phantom Hotel".[16]


View of the top in September 2008, some time after construction resumed

In April 2008, after 16 years of inactivity, work on the building was restarted by the Egyptian construction firm Orascom Group.[16][26] The firm, which had entered into a US$400 million deal with the North Korean government to build and run a cellular network, said that their telecommunications deal was not directly related to the Ryugyong Hotel work.[16] In 2008, North Korean officials stated that the hotel would be completed by 2012, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim.[22] In 2009, Orascom's chief operating officer Bichara noted that they "had not had too many problems" resolving the reported structural issues of the building, and that a revolving restaurant would be located at the top of the building.[16]

In July 2011, it was reported that the exterior work was complete.[27] Features that Orascom had installed include exterior glass panels and telecommunications antennas.[28] In September 2012, photographs taken by Koryo Tours were released, showing the interior for the first time. The photographs showed no wiring, cabling, or pipes in the structure, which was bare and unfurnished.[29][30]

Opening announced, then cancelled


In November 2012, international hotel operator Kempinski announced it would be running the hotel, which was expected to partially open in mid‑2013.[31][32] In March 2013, plans to open the hotel were suspended.[33] Kempinski clarified its earlier statements, saying that only "initial discussions" had ever occurred,[34] but that no agreement had been signed because "market entry is not currently possible".[35]

Kempinski did not elaborate on its reasons, but commentators suggested that international tensions related to the 2013 North Korean nuclear test, economic risks, and delays in construction probably played a part.[33][35][36]



In late 2016, there were indications of renewed activity, and a report that a representative of Orascom had visited North Korea.[37] In 2017 and early 2018, there were signs of work at the site, with access roads being constructed.[38][39]

In April 2018, it was reported that a large LED display featuring the North Korean flag had been added to the top of the building.[40] By May, an LED display had been added to one entire side of the structure,[41] and there were reports that the building was being readied for occupation.[42] By July, the LED display was showing animations and movie scenes.[43] In June 2019, there was new signage bearing the hotel's name (in Korean and English) and its logo over the main entrance.[44] In 2023, there has been some evidence of construction resuming in the Ryugyong Hotel as North Korea wishes to finally complete the project.

Pictures of the LED-Nightshow in 2019

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Orascom and DPRK to Complete Ryugyong Hotel Construction". The Institute for Far Eastern Studies. 20 May 2008. Archived from the original on 3 July 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Ryugyong Hotel". Emporis. Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
  3. ^ "105 Building, Pyongyang, Korea, North". Asian Historical Architecture. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  4. ^ Funabashi, Yoichi (2007). The Peninsula Question: A Chronicle of the Second Northern Korean Nuclear Crisis. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8157-3010-1.
  5. ^ Berg, Nate (16 February 2016). "North Korea's Best Building Is Empty: The Mystery of the Ryugyong Hotel". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016.
  6. ^ "Ryugyong, the world's tallest empty hotel, dazzles North Korean capital skyline with propaganda light shows". South China Morning Post. 30 December 2018.
  7. ^ "North Korea's 'Hotel of Doom' to open 24 years after construction: by numbers". The Daily Telegraph. 10 October 2011. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  8. ^ Lakritz, Talia. "North Korea's tallest building is an abandoned hotel that has never hosted a single guest – take a closer look at the 'Hotel of Doom'". Insider. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  9. ^ Hwang, Kyung Moon (2016). A History of Korea (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 316. ISBN 978-1-137-57358-2. Archived from the original on 14 March 2022.
  10. ^ Jacopo Prisco (10 August 2019). "Ryugyong Hotel: The story of North Korea's 'Hotel of Doom'". CNN. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  11. ^ Prisco, Jacopo (10 August 2019). "Ryugyong Hotel: The story of North Korea's 'Hotel of Doom'". CNN. Retrieved 10 January 2022. Still closed to this day, the Ryugyong Hotel is the world's tallest unoccupied building.
  12. ^ Guinness World Records (September 2015). "Tallest building unoccupied". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 10 January 2022. Tallest building unoccupied
  13. ^ a b c Hagberg, Eva (28 January 2008). "The Worst Building in the History of Mankind". Esquire. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  14. ^ Randl, Chad (2008). Revolving Architecture: A History of Buildings That Rotate, Swivel, and Pivot. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-56898-681-4.
  15. ^ a b Quinones, C. Kenneth; Taggert, Joseph (2003). "The Economy: Supporting the Military". The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding North Korea. Complete Idiot's Guides. Indianapolis: Alpha Books. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-59257-169-7. LCCN 2003113809. OCLC 54510387. OL 8867625M.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Will 'Hotel of Doom' ever be finished?". BBC News. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  17. ^ a b c d Ngor, Oh Kwee (9 June 1990). "Western decadence hits N. Korea". Japan Economic Journal: 12.
  18. ^ Cramer, James P.; Jennifer Evans Yankopolus, eds. (2006). Almanac of Architecture & Design (7th ed.). Atlanta: Greenway Publications. p. 368. ISBN 0-9755654-2-7.
  19. ^ "North Korean hotel dubbed the 'worst building in the world' may finally be finished". The Daily Telegraph. London. 16 October 2009. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
  20. ^ a b c Beckmann, Dan (23 October 2006). "Pyongyang: Home to the Tallest Hotel in the World That Could, but Will Never Be". ABC News. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  21. ^ "North Korea builds record-height hotel". Engineering News-Record: 41. 15 November 1990.
  22. ^ a b Kirk, Donald (17 October 2008). "Grand Illusion". Forbes. Archived from the original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  23. ^ Noland, Marcus (2000). Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics. p. 82. ISBN 0-88132-278-4.
  24. ^ a b Demick, Barbara (27 September 2008). "North Korea in the midst of mysterious building boom". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 December 2008.
  25. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (18 July 2008). "North Koreans revamp 'world's worst building'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  26. ^ "Korea: N Korea Resumes Construction of Luxury Hotel". MySinchew. 25 May 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  27. ^ "Photos: 'Hotel of Doom' Exterior Completed". The Huffington Post. 14 July 2011.
  28. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (17 July 2008). "Lifestyle: North Korea's 'Hotel of Doom' wakes from its coma". Reuters. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  29. ^ "North Korea's Ryugyong 'Hotel of Doom' pictures released". BBC News. 27 September 2012.
  30. ^ "Ryugyong Hotel Special Report!". Koryo Tours. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014.
  31. ^ "North Korea's Ryugyong Hotel Will 'Probably' Open Next Year, Be Managed By Kempinski". The Huffington Post. Associated Press. 1 November 2012. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012.
  32. ^ Yoon, Sangwon (1 November 2012). "Kempinski to Operate World's Tallest Hotel in North Korea". Bloomberg.
  33. ^ a b "Plan to open high-rise hotel in Pyongyang suspended due to 'market conditions'". Yonhap News Agency. 29 March 2013. Archived from the original on 4 June 2013.
  34. ^ Strochlic, Nina (22 May 2014). "Nobody's Home at the Hermit Kingdom's Ghost Hotel". The Daily Beast. New York. Archived from the original on 12 November 2015.
  35. ^ a b O’Carroll, Chad (28 March 2013). "Kempinski Freezes 'Hotel of Doom' Plans in North Korea". NK News. Archived from the original on 28 September 2015.
  36. ^ "Travel: North Korea's vast Ryugyong Hotel not opening yet after all". CNN. 25 April 2013. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Despite its flashy exterior, the hotel's interior showed no sign of being close to completion in December [2012].
  37. ^ O'Carroll, Chad (2 December 2016). "Lights on at North Korea's Ryugyong 'hotel of doom'". NK News.
  38. ^ Sherwell, Philip (6 August 2017). "'Hotel of Doom' takes Kim's illusion-building sky high". The Times. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  39. ^ O'Carroll, Chad (26 February 2018). "New roads connected to Pyongyang's unfinished Ryugyong Hotel". NK News.
  40. ^ O'Carroll, Chad (2 April 2018). "Huge LED display added to top of Pyongyang's iconic Ryugyong Hotel: photo". NK News.
  41. ^ Talmadge, Eric (30 December 2018). "World's tallest empty hotel lit up with N. Korean propaganda". Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  42. ^ O'Carroll, Chad (21 May 2018). "Enormous LED light wall added to side of Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel". NK News.
  43. ^ Zwirko, Colin (20 July 2018). "Despite sanctions, multiple new construction projects emerging in Pyongyang". NK News.
  44. ^ McGowan, Michael (27 June 2019). "Australian student reportedly arrested in North Korea out of contact since Tuesday, family say". The Guardian.