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Ryugyong Hotel

Ryugyong Hotel (류경호텔)

The Ryugyong Hotel (Korean: 류경호텔) (sometimes anglicized as Ryu-Gyong Hotel or Yu-Kyung Hotel) is a 105-floor skyscraper under construction in Pyongyang, North Korea. Its name comes from one of the historic names for the city of Pyongyang, and means "capital of willows"; the building is also known as the 105 building, a reference to its number of floors. Construction began in 1987, but was halted in 1992 due to the economic disruptions that afflicted the country following the fall of the Soviet Union. The hotel stood topped out but without windows or interior fittings for the next sixteen years. 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 expects to complete exterior work on the building in 2010, with interior work taking until 2012 or later.

The hotel rises to a height of 330 metres (1,080 ft), and it contains 360,000 square metres (3,900,000 sq ft) of floor space, 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 become the world's tallest hotel. The unfinished structure was not surpassed in height by another hotel until the completion of construction on the Rose Tower in Dubai, UAE in 2009. The Ryugyong is currently the world's 30th tallest building, a title it shares with the China World Trade Center Tower III.



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 a 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." North Korean construction firm Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers (also known as Baekdu Mountain Architects and Engineers) began construction on a pyramid-shaped hotel in 1987.

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 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 government denied the building's existence for many years, manipulated official photographs in order to remove the structure, and excluding 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".Former CNN international correspondent Mike Chinoy likened it to the calcium deposit on the neck of Kim Il-sung; both were clearly visible despite official attempts to hide them.

Construction resumes

In April 2008, after 16 years of inactivity, work on the hotel was restarted by Egypt's 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 hotel work.

Features that Orascom has installed include exterior glass panels and telecommunications antennas. It is unclear to what extent Orascom plans to complete the building. 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 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, despite the reported structural problems of the building, interior work will be performed, and that a revolving restaurant will be located at the top of the building.

It is also unclear when the construction will be completed. In 2008, 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, work on the building's exterior is expected to last until the end of 2010, at which point interior work will begin, which will last until 2012 or beyond. 

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."

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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