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The “Hotel of Doom” named “Worst Building in the History of Mankind” by Esquire magazine in 2008 has always been an embarrassment to North Korean leadership and a symbol of the impoverished country’s economic crisis. Construction of the hotel was originally abandoned in 1992, but according to AFP, Reto Wittwer, the chief executive of the Kempinski group announced that the hotel would start operation either in July or August 2013, offering 150 rooms on the top levels of the building, while opening shops, restaurants and offices on the lower floors.
The 105-story pyramid shaped building, the Ryugyong hotel, has dominated the skyline of Pyongyang for decades and will be the 47th tallest structure with the fifth highest number of floors in the world, at 330m (1,100ft) according to BBC News. Recently, Wittwer told reporters in Seoul that, “This pyramid monster hotel will monopolize all the business in the city. I said to myself, we have to get this hotel if there is ever a chance, because this will become a money-printing machine if North Korea opens up.”
Initially, construction began 26 years ago in 1986 and was planned to be ready in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, but was put to a halt in 1992 due to the economic crisis. However, the situation changed in 2008, when Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian company decided to fund the hotel as a part of the $400 million deal to run a 3G mobile network in North Korea. Currently, $180m has been spent on finishing the building’s facade.
The North Korean regime hopes that the hotel will increase the number of overseas visitors and earn sufficient foreign currency, as it suffers from the international sanctions enforced after performing nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Currently, China is North Korea’s biggest source of tourism, while American, European, and South Korean governments advise their citizens against visiting this region, reports the Telegraph.
The Ryugyong hotel of Pyongyang was criticized and given various nicknames over the years. The title of the “Worst Building in the World” was given by Eva Hagberg, the New York-based architectural critic; Stefano Boeri, the Italian architect and editor in chief of the design magazine Abitare, once described the structure as “having forced it to reveal its icy nature, its irresistible fascination as a fragile alien meteorite.”
This three sided pyramid structure can be viewed as a symbol of a new era of openness in North Korea. However, the country’s economy and isolation policy may restrict the frequent occurrence of international trade. Thus, the viability of the Ryugyong Hotel will mainly rely on the tourism and business sectors.