, Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Apr 9 – The towering hulk of the Ryugyong Hotel, a vast and unfinished edifice that has loomed over Pyongyang for decades, was lit up on Monday night.
Lights mounted near the top of the 105-storey structure depicted a red, white and blue North Korean flag, while the edges of the building were illuminated in yellow and multicoloured lights beamed out from over the entrance.
The display was visible for less than an hour but will intensify speculation about the ill-fated hotel. Construction began in 1987, when North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung still ruled the country.
It stopped in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union dried up funding from Moscow. For decades the structure stood full height but incomplete, its empty rooms looking out ominously over the city, earning it the nickname ‘Hotel of Doom’.
It is reportedly the world’s largest unoccupied building.
Egyptian firm Orascom, the majority shareholder in North Korea’s Koryolink cellphone network, was obliged to spend millions of dollars to glaze the structure as part of its deal to enter the country, and the exterior was completed in 2011.
Swiss luxury hotel chain Kempinski held discussions about opening in the building, but pulled out in 2013, with a spokeswoman telling AFP: “Market entry is not currently possible.”
No recent work has been seen being carried out. But speculation has mounted that some parts could finally be put to use, after walls around it were removed last year to reveal roads towards its entrance, and the occasional night-time light was spotted.
Under current leader Kim Jong Un -– the founder’s grandson -– a series of urban development projects have changed the Pyongyang skyline.
Even so there has been no official word on any plans for the hotel — although this weekend’s 106th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth could be the occasion for some kind of unveiling.