Secrets Within Ryugyong Hotel Of Doom In North Korea

north korea, ryugyong hotel
Photo by Xiehechaotian on Wikimedia Commons

North Korea is a closed-off, mysterious country. So mysterious and abandoned buildings just comes with the territory. One of those buildings is Ryugyong Hotel.

Ryugyong Hotel is in Pyongyang, North Korea. This hotel is 1,080 ft tall with 105-stories. The skyscraper resembles a pyramid. The word Ryugyong means ‘capital of willows’, an ancient name of the city Pyongyang. There are also other names like 105 Building or North Korea’s tallest building.

It has also the Guinness book of world records of being the unoccupied tallest building in the whole world. The Ryugyong Hotel construction started in 1987 but halted. This building has three wings; each one is 330 ft long. The initial plan was to make 3000 rooms. On top of the building, there is a truncated cone which is 130 ft wide. The cone consists of total 14 floors, eight rotating floors and six static floors.

Recently, the government again has started to plan for the structure and open it to do the business. From so many years people are very curious about this unique pyramid hotel and want to know more. The curiosity is still there about what is the future of the Ryugyong Hotel whether it will be ever able to serve any guest.

History Of The Ryugyong Hotel

ryugyong hotel, north korea
Photo by Chad O’Carroll on Wikimedia Commons

When the planning was going on, the intention was to make it the tallest hotel in the world. The expectation was to create the world’s grandest and largest unique hotel. They targeted to complete the Ryugyong Hotel project within 1992, which was the year of the 80th birthday of Kim Il-Sung, the former President of North Korea.

The hotel is a response to the construction of the Westin Stamford Hotel in Singapore. SsangYong Group, a South Korean company, is responsible for the construction of the hotel. That time it was the tallest hotel in the world. The leaders of North Korea wanted to create a market for the western investors and $230 million was the estimated amount for that. There was even a declaration from the Government that, the foreign investors could operate nightclubs, Japanese lounges or casinos. Baekdu Mountain Architects and Engineers, the construction firm of North Korea started the project in 1987.


The outer the Ryugyong Hotel structure is complete. However, the project was halted in 1992. North Korea was facing a financial crisis due to the end of the Soviet Union. Without the help of the Soviet Union, it was never possible for North Korea to finish the work. The total cost was about $750 million, which was almost 2% GDP of the country. The building was standing there without any kind of interior items, fittings or windows. As the Ryugyong Hotel building was unfinished it could not be used. The ‘European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea’ visited the structure in 1990 and questioned the hotel’s quality.

Due to the rumour and other problems, it got the names ‘Hotel of Doom’, ‘the worst building in the world’ or ‘Phantom Hotel’. A rusting crane sat on top of the building which reminded the unfinished work and bad luck. In 2008, there was an announcement that North Korea did not have sufficient money to finish the building. The hotel looked like a white pyramid standing above the Pyongyang city. The hotel, once considered as the fortune and glory of North Korea, turned into a misfortune and embarrassment.

The Ryugyong Hotel Construction Started Again

construction, ryugyong hotel
Photo by Mark Scott Johnson on Wikimedia Commons

In 2008, the construction work again started after sixteen years by Orascom Group, an Egyptian Group. They agreed on a deal of $400 million for the 3G mobile network. They were not associated with the Ryugyong Hotel’s work directly. It was announced that, the project would be completed by 2012 and which was also the year of the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung. Kim Il-sung died in 2011.  The exterior was done in the same year. The glass panels were attached at the outer surface to have a better look. On the top of the building, the mobile network antennas were established.

While everyone was preparing for the opening of the hotel, Kempinski, an international hotel group, decided to take over the responsibility of the hotel. They were very popular worldwide for their luxurious service which was the best and finest. But after the announcement, the construction was stopped again and the opening time was delayed from 2012 to 2013.

Later, Kempinski said that they did not sign any official deal and only the verbal discussion was going on. It is said that, due to the nuclear tests done by North Korea, the company lost its interest in running the Ryugyong Hotel. Again the place became an abandoned one and stood alone as a vacant building. For the next 4 years a signboard ‘No trespassing’ is present. Aside from that, armed guards used to guard the entrance. In 2017, a few attempts were taken again to start the work but there is no official announcement.

Present Condition Of The Hotel

The speculation was going on since 2016 that work had started and going on. There are also satellite images that some works are going on. The roads were created to access the site easily. Now, an LED display with 100,000 LED was installed for using the tallest structure of North Korea for light shows. The country’s history, political slogans, movie scenes, animation, etc. are shown there.

The number of rooms decreased from 3000 to 1500. Now, the building will not be used as a hotel only, there are other purposes as well. There are also office spaces and apartments with the hotel rooms. As of 2019, a signage with the logo was established with the name the Ryugyong Hotel both in English and Korean at the entrance. Many had criticised for spending so much money on this doomed structure, as the inhabitants are not so financially well off. Though the building has not opened yet, maybe in  the near future we will see the hotel be operated successfully.

North Korea doesn’t allow many tourists to come to their country, so it’s unlikely for any of us to see Ryugyong Hotel in person. However, it’s still one of the world’s most mysterious buildings.


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