Home Places The Ryugyong Hotel – North Korea’s 105 storey Failure

The Ryugyong Hotel – North Korea’s 105 storey Failure

As one of the tallest hotels in the world, the Ryugyong Hotel has quite a story, and that's before it has even opened its doors to the awaiting, (and one will assume mostly foreign) public.

The Ryugyong Hotel, (designed by Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers) first began construction back in 1987. With a completion date of 1989, it was intended to be open in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students. If this had taken place, the Ryugyong would have been the tallest hotel in the world at that time.

This of course did not happen. After 27 years since construction  of The Ryugyong Hotel began, the 105 story building stands at 330 meters yet is still unfinished. However, if it opened today the hotel could still lay claim to being the 3rd tallest hotel in the world.

Building work on the pyramid shaped hotel came to a halt in 1992. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pyongyang no longer had the financial support of its main benefactor. The economic disaster that ensued for North Korea is well known, causing a devastating famine that killed up to 3.5 million people throughout the 1990s.

For several decades the unfinished hotel towered above the city of Pyongyang, an idle hulk serving as a mocking reminder of North Korea’s broken economy and government system. An inspection by a European delegation in the Nineties concluded that the shell was irreparable and it should be torn down because of its poor-quality concrete and crooked elevator shafts.

Fast forward to 2008, and to the astonishment of the international community work did resume. Financed by the Egyptian Orascom Group, the company took over as developers after reportedly signing a $400 million dollar deal to establish a mobile phone network in North Korea.

Now the hotel is much less of an eye sore. It’s strengthened concrete core meet international safety standards and with £111 million worth of glass coating the exterior, comparisons are now being made to the famous ‘Shard‘ building in London.

According to Orascom’s Khaled Bichara the Ryugyong will be more than just a hotel. The development will include revolving restaurants, apartments and different types of hotel accommodation as well as business and corporate facilities.

However, after all this investment the 330m tall building still remains empty. Completion dates continue to be pushed back.

In November 2012 the international hotel operator Kempinski announced it would be running the hotel, with a partial opening planned for late 2013. However, these plans were put on hold with heightened tensions within the region.

With current hostilities between North Korea and the West, it remains to be seen when the Ryugyong Hotel will finally be open for business.

Project Details

  • Project: Ryugyong Hotel
  • Owner: Orascom Group
  • Location: Pyongyang, North Korea
  • Architect: Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers
  • Contractor : Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers (1987–1992), Orascom Construction Industries (2008–present)
  • Year Completed:  1987 – under construction
  • Country:  North Korea