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The Ryugyong Hotel ( ) (sometimes anglicized as Ryu-Gyong Hotel or Yu-Kyung Hotel) is a supertall skyscraper intended for use as a hotel in Sojang-dong, in the Potong-gang District of Pyongyangmarker, North Koreamarker. The hotel's name comes from one of the historic names for Pyongyang: Ryugyong, or "capital of willows". Its 105 stories rise to a height of , and it contains of floor space, making it the most prominent feature of the city's skyline and by far the largest structure in the country. It is the world's 28th tallest building. If completed on schedule, it would have become the world's tallest hotel.

Construction began in 1987 and ceased in 1992, due to the government's financial difficulties. The unfinished hotel remained untouched until April 2008, when construction resumed after being inactive for 16 years.

Background

The building's plan for a large hotel was reportedly a Cold War response to the completion of the Westin Stamford Hotelmarker in Singaporemarker the previous year by a South Koreanmarker 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."

Design and construction

The Ryugyong Hotel was designed to feature 105 stories, resembling a flattened and bent ziggurat. The exterior walls of the building were to be covered in mirrored glass, with 3,000 guest rooms and several disk-shaped floors near the top of the building to feature five revolving restaurants. Under the leadership of Kim Jong-il, construction on this pyramid-shaped hotel began in 1987 by the North Korean construction firm Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers. The reinforced concrete structure consists of three wings, the face of each wing measuring 100 m (328 ft) long and 18 m (59 ft) wide, which converge at a common point to form a pinnacle. At the top is a 40 m (131 ft) wide circular structure which contains eight floors intended to rotate, topped by a further six static floors. The hotel is surrounded by a number of pavilions, gardens, and terraces. Its walls slope at a steep 75 degree angle. It was added to maps and North Korean postage stamps before it was half-finished. Shortly after the building's concrete hardened, it was discovered that elevators would not be able to operate in its poorly-designed shafts.

Building deadlock

The hotel was scheduled to open in June 1989 for the World Festival of Youth and Students, but problems with building methods and materials delayed completion. Work ceased in 1992 due to electricity shortages, funding problems and the North Korean famine. Japanese newspapers estimated the cost of construction was US$750 million—equivalent to 2% of North Korea’s GDP.There had been some question about whether North Korea had the raw materials or energy for such a massive project. A government official said in 2008 that construction had previously been halted when funds ran out. After a decade since the beginning of the building's construction, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea delegated an inspection of the building, where it was concluded that the structure was "irreparable".

International media reaction

Though the basic structure was complete when construction came to a halt in 1992, the building shell sat vacant and without windows, fixtures, or fittings for 16 years. A rusting construction crane at the top assumed the role of a permanent fixture.Bjerg, Greg. "North Korea's 'Secret' Hotel". April 6, 2006. /www.damninteresting.com/?p=490>. Retrieved July 5 2009.

Even though the hotel dominates the Pyongyang skyline, it has proven difficult to obtain information about the hotel or its future from North Korean sources. The problems associated with the hotel led some media sources to dub it "The Worst Building in the World", "Hotel of Doom" and "Phantom Hotel".

Future

The Ryugyong hotel (in May 2005) as it appeared during the 16 years of construction deadlock
After 16 years of inactivity, foreign residents in Pyongyang noted that Egypt's Orascom Group started refurbishing the top floors of the hotel in April 2008. Though the effect on the architecture has yet to be determined, glass paneling and telecommunications antennas were observed being installed.

The Orascom Telecom subsidiary of the group confirmed involvement in the structure to begin developing GSM infrastructure in North Korea for up to 100,000 initial subscribers. Only government officials are permitted to use mobile phones and the service has been banned from use by ordinary citizens and foreigners since 2002.

In September 2008, Choe Jong Hun, an official with the Committee for Cultural Relations With Foreign Countries, said the refurbishing of the Ryugyong Hotel will be done by 2012 – the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. At the same time, an Orascom company official said the goal of the project was to at least give the structure's facade a facelift and make it more attractive.

On December 22, 2008, photos of ongoing construction at the hotel appeared on the Internet. The exterior construction has included the installation of windows and a covering of the top (circular) floors.

In August 2009, photos appeared showing at least one side of the hotel completely clad in glass, along with the upper circular floors that were to house the revolving restaurants. In October 2009, a TVB Hong Kongmarker news program confirmed that a single side of the hotel, along with the upper floors were the only parts of the hotel to be clad in glass.


See also



References

  1. (Hong Kong only)



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