At 105 floors, the Ryugyong Hotel would have been the
world's largest hotel if work had not come to a halt in 1991. Why it was even
built is something of a mystery. Early on in
It's generally assumed construction came to a halt because North Korea was suffering from a famine (the hotel was to have 7 revolving restaurants), an acute electricity shortage, and they basically ran out of money (the hotel cost upwards of $700 million, which is about 2% of North Korea's GDP).
Clearly a simple matter like in the world's most closed
off society where few people ever need or want to visit, a 3,000 room hotel
makes as much economic sense as setting up a frogurt stand on Mars. Those who
need the comforts of a Western-style hotel in North Korea's capital are
already served by two existing (and money losing) hotels, including the
Yanggakdo Hotel, a new and more modest 5-star hotel for foreigners located
strategically on an island in the middle of the city's main Taedong river
(which acts as a moat to keep foreigners from wandering off the hotel grounds
and quite possibly keep starving North Koreans from storming the breakfast
buffet). If, for whatever reason, you decide to visit this Stalinist
Disneyland, be warned foreigners are not permitted to stay in
What probably killed the project -- besides a simple lack of money and realistic expectations of eager tourists -- is that it was discovered recently that the hotel was made from substandard concrete. The hotel, if finished and occupied, would come crumbling down.
The North Koreans themselves are quietly trying to make the hotel go away (short of blasting it to rubble). Even before the hotel was started, it was featured on North Korean stamps and added to city maps. The hotel is no longer found on stamps and newly issued maps.
I personally like to think of the Ryugyong HotelI hotel as the ultimate example of what happens when managers get really insane ideas and everyone knows it's a really insane idea and there are zero resources to do it but your job (or life) depends on you doing it, so you kinda just barely do the job, make a big show of it, in status meetings use terms like "repurpose the supply-chain"/"impactful delivery"/"action-item paradigm", and substitute memos for reinforced concrete, all with the expectation that the insane manager will a) die b) get fired and when something like that happens everyone will then make a big show about how the project is still top priority -- because it's on everyone's check point performance review objectives for next quarter -- and then everyone just stops working on it and the subject never comes up again, unless of course, the project is 105 stories tall and in the middle of your city.
It's interesting to note, the North Koreans also built
themselves their very own "L'Arc de Triomphe". Not unexpectedly,
their Arc de Triomphe is about 10 feet higher than the lil pisser found in
FYI, the tallest hotel in
#INCLUDE joke about people wanting to visit
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Copyright 2003 Karl Mamer
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