Wednesday, October 20, 2021

North Korea’s Hotel of Doom- Story More Painful Than Your Crush Ignoring You

The world is intrigued about almost everything related to North Korea. The details about the country are covered under the cloak of Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship that is feared by citizens. This leaves the scope to unearth a plethora of fascinating facts about the East Asian country. One such thing that amazes people worldwide is North Korea’s Hotel of Doom.

During the year 1987, the North Korean government took up one of their biggest projects of all time, the Ryugyong Hotel. Ryugyong, ‘The Capital of the Willows’, was visioned to be the grandest and tallest hotel in the world.  It was going to be over 1,000 feet high, with 3,000 spaces, a bowling alley, a night club, and five revolving restaurants at the top.

However, for a hotel due in 1989, it is highly disappointing to still witness it incomplete in 2021. The hotel is nicknamed ‘Hotel of Doom’, ‘Phantom Hotel’ and ‘Phantom Pyramid.’ The magazine Esquire claims the hotel might open in 2021. But what makes it special?

The Original Idea for the construction of North Korea’s Hotel of Doom ‘Ryugyong Hotel’

Due to the mutiny in 1987, the South Korean generals had to hold a free election under the influence of the United States. This change was also the building block behind South Korea’s capitalist economy. To celebrate the new government, South Korea was scheduled to host the 1988 Summer Olympics. 

The skyscrapers and modern technology present in South Korea today are due to the construction boom in 1988. A South Korean company also made history by completing the construction of the Westin Stamford Hotel in Singapore in 1986. The hotel was the tallest hotel in the world at the time, which naturally made the North Koreans jealous. And they say, there is no better fuel than the fuel of jealousy.

This boom in South Korea’s rapid development ignited a fire among the authorities of North Korea to pace-up. They even insisted on having the highest flagpole at the frontier. To out-do South Korea, the North Korean government settled on the following two tactics-

The first was to host the “World Festival of Youth and Students”—a socialist version of the Olympics that would take place at rather irregular intervals since 1947. They invested an estimated $4 billion on new facilities and stadiums in preparation for their alternate Olympics. 

The second big announcement was the construction of the world’s tallest hotel, the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel. It was expected to open on time for the festival. Work started, but it soon became clear that the 1989 target was too ambitious and the plan backfired. The hotel was then scheduled to open in 1992 to celebrate Kim Sung’s 80th birthday.

Unfortunately, while the building had reached its 1080-foot height by 1992, problems with materials and construction methods had caused considerable delays. By then, construction had cost about $750 million, equivalent to 2% of North Korea’s national income. This caused work to stop for 16 years. 

ALSO READ: Must-Visit Fashion Capitals of the World

The Reason Behind North Korea’s Bankruptcy and Hault in Construction of Hotel of Doom

The Soviet Union disbanded in 1991 which left North Korea devoid of its biggest source of economic aid. Until then, North and South Korea’s economies weren’t that different, but after the Soviet Union’s end, the North Koreans landed into a significant economic crisis.

The Ryugyong Hotel was nearly completed by 2008 and dominated the skyline of Pyongyang but with a rusting crane perched on top. It was a major disgrace to the North Korean government but the authorities chose to ignore it. They even edited photographs and deleted the hotel from official pictures of the country. The Hotel of Doom was erased from all the official maps of North Korea.

And you thought, your crush ignoring your is painful! Think about the poor Ryugyong Hotel.

During this time the structure decayed due to the weather, and there was talk that it would eventually have to be demolished. This was when the less than flattering ‘Hotel of Doom’ moniker began. It seemed impossible that the construction would ever be complete.

When the Construction Briefly Resumed 

In 2008, an Egyptian construction firm named Orascom created a construction agreement with the North Korean government to develop a 3G network. The rusty crane was removed with the aid of Egyptian engineers, and glass and metal panels were added. The external work was finished by 2011.

An Orascom engineer added that there weren’t many issues with the interior structure. This prompted officials to state that the hotel would eventually be completed in 2012, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Kim Il-Sung. Unsurprisingly, there were delays but in November 2012 the Kempinski chain announced that it would be operating the Ryugyong Hotel and intended to partially open it by mid-2013. It seemed like things were finally going forward.

In March 2013, Kempinski said the plan to open the hotel would yet again, be put on hold. They claimed the world misjudged their meetings where Kempinski merely spoke with the government.  Although this may be true, several analysts have noted that in February 2013, North Korea carried out an underground nuclear test that dramatically increased global tensions. Things went quiet again.

Will Ryugyong Hotel Finally Open?

Towards the end of 2016, it was announced that a representative of the Egyptian firm Orascom had visited North Korea. Work on the site was ongoing from 2017 to 2018 and access roads were built.

In July 2018, an LED screen added to the entire side of the building began showing animations and film scenes. The same month, a sign was erected that reads: “Ryugyong Hotel” in Korean and English. Simon Cockerell, CEO of the Koryo Group—a Beijing-based company specializing in North Korean tours—visited the site around that time.


If the ‘Hotel of Doom’ is ever opened, it will no longer be the biggest hotel in the world. It’s not even going to be the tallest building on the Korean Peninsula, for that is the Lotte World Tower in Seoul (which is 800 feet taller). However, someone gives this hotel the award for the most ignored yet sustained architecture in the world to be finally completed.

Huda Sameer
Huda Sameer is pursuing Commerce and is experienced in writing for multi-dimensional content. With admiration for developing knowledge through research and exploring an array of genres, Huda loves to bring detailed analysis to the stories she covers. Besides curating content, she is a big foodie by heart who loves to travel, jam to hip hop, and progress towards her ambitions through sheer determination.





Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here