Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang

    Newer Older

    North Korea's "Secret" Hotel




    Ryugyong HotelUnder the personality cult of leaders Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung, North Korea has become fiercely isolationist, nationalistic, and totalitarian. Despite being one of the planet's poorest countries, the communist state looks for any achievement to boost itself in eyes of the world. Its people know little or nothing of other nations except for the fact that Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is vastly superior.

    The DPRK is also one of the world's most secretive nations. For a North Korean, contact with a foreigner can land one in jail… or worse. But there is one embarrassing secret that is hard for the government to hide, literally. It's the Ryugyong Hotel in the Potong District of North Korea's capital city of Pyongyang. It's difficult to hide because it's a massive, 105-story structure which dominates the city's skyline. It's an embarrassment because it's a complete engineering failure… its empty, dilapidated husk lurks over the capital, mocking the citizens of the proud country.

    The hotel's story begins in 1987, when the North Korean government began construction at an estimated cost of $750 million, or 2% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). By comparison, 2% of the United States' GDP would be about $220 billion. Construction of the hotel was a cold war response to other massive skyscrapers in Asia, most notably South Korea's towering Stamford Hotel in Singapore. The North Koreans expected the project to bring in western investors as a first move into their nation. Investors were told to expect little oversight, and assured that casinos, nightclubs and lounges could be added. The North Korean government was so proud of the project that they added it to their official city maps before the project was even started, and they issued postage stamps touting the hotel before it was even half-finished.

    The Ryugyong or "Capital of Willows" Hotel stands 1,083 feet tall, and it was planned to have 3,000 rooms and seven revolving restaurants. It has a total of 3.9 million square feet of floor space. The hotel would be the tallest hotel and seventh largest building in the world if it were finished. It would also have been the first building with over one hundred floors outside of New York or Chicago.

    The first event scheduled to be held at the hotel was June 1989's World Festival of Youth and Students. The hotel was nowhere near ready for that event. Its construction was plagued with problems, and after five years construction completely ground to a halt due to a shortage of everything… especially funding and electricity. Work on the hotel has never resumed; the project was abandoned, leaving a lonely construction crane perched on its peak.

    Pyongyang SkylinePyongyang skyline, showing the Ryugyong Hotel on the top right.The shell of the building is complete but it has not been certified as safe for occupancy. There are no windows, fixtures, or fittings. The extremely poor quality concrete used in its construction has left the building sagging to such a great degree that the structure can never be finished without a massive overhaul.

    The North Korean government is still looking for foreign investment, hopefully around $300 million. It's going to be hard to find such an investor considering the DPRK has such a tight stranglehold on visitors coming to their nation. The DPRK only allows about 130,000 tourists in an entire year, and almost none of them come to Pyongyang. To make matters worse, the nation appears to be in a never-ending drought and famine cycle that is not conducive for the operation of a five-star hotel.

    Today, few North Koreans are willing to discuss the hotel with outsiders. The hotel, which was once found on city maps before the construction even began, has now been completely stricken from the official maps. Tour guides usually claim not to know where it is. Either a majority of the country is in a state of denial about the whole thing, or they avoid t

    undersound, Wannes Deprez / Ony One, and 96 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 20 more comments

    1. marilyn2d 83 months ago | reply

      incredibly interesting!

    2. andydealer [deleted] 81 months ago | reply

      I love this building..and thanks for the great story...I wish i could go there someday...

    3. macprohawaii 81 months ago | reply

      They just did an item on this @ ABC News. Doesn't look like a place I'd like to stay at.

    4. Fredrik_Hustler 80 months ago | reply

      Interesting, nice text to =)

    5. CK'sPhoto 80 months ago | reply

      ulgiest building on the planet!

    6. ShanLuPhoto 79 months ago | reply


    7. abej2004 74 months ago | reply

      I think it's amazing, too bad they didn't replicate more of this architecture in the West and East, perhaps it's just too big! I've read it's made out of lower grade concrete, without much steel, and windows don't have doors there are 6 rotating restraunts or spaces on top, still physics wise it seems to make sense to make things in a triangular shape to distribute weight more evenly, fantastic.

    8. rackyross 72 months ago | reply

      here you have, the pride of North Korean architecture... The perfect picture of the craziest country in the world!!! (and... perhaps one of the most interesting)

      @abej: they never finished it... it's just an empty concrete block that's starting to fall in pieces..

      Found in a search. (?)

    9. therealshawnshawn 71 months ago | reply

      Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Political Art Now, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    10. sadansky 70 months ago | reply

      Is that the landmark of northKorea?

    11. chinesoul 66 months ago | reply

      technically, i like this design

    12. GrandpaPorridge 65 months ago | reply

      All someone needs to do is add "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength" to the building and it will resemble the Ministry of Truth from 1984. A large, white, towering pyramid.

    13. j_fitz2001 64 months ago | reply

      Time has slowly made some of this post false, although it is still very interesting. However, in 2008 construction on the building resumed.


    14. LeszekZadlo 58 months ago | reply

      Hi, I'm an admin for a group called 100 + Viewed Best Architecture Photos (add 1, award 1), and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    15. Eva Soejono 50 months ago | reply

      impressive hotel i ever see....

      could i make like this... hueheuhe

      Look this also ===>>> weeklynewspreview.blogspot.com

      Just sharing another information with you all... :D

    16. connie.purwagani 50 months ago | reply

      arisitek a unique makes me want to take a closer look amazing

    17. Yi Chen of China 27 months ago | reply


    keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts