Joe McClain - Sep 14, 2009

North Korea is once again trying to convince the world that it is a powerful country. The cursed ‘Hotel of Doom’ in Pyongyang is getting a makeover. A major one! $2 billion, about 10% of GDP is being invested in the project.




For decades, North Korea has been fighting to retain the image of a prosperous and happy country. Not many believe that to be true. Especially now, when the praised leader, Kim Chong Il, appears to be suffering from ill health. However, the reputation has to be protected at all costs. North Korea has found a project which is to prove the glamour and power once again. A massive reconstruction is to turn one of the most controversial and unappealing buildings in the world into a modern, state-of-the-art hotel.


The construction of the Ryugyong Hotel started already in 1987. At that time, it was a very ambitious project, which – if completed – would have presented the world with one of the tallest buildings of the time. Nevertheless, the early nineties brought about the fall of the Soviet Union and thus, the main funding source vanished. The building had to be put on hold. The nearly complete structure was so unattractive that many official photographs were airbrushed to erase the building off the city skyline.


After sixteen years of waiting, the project has now been revived. The renovation started in 2008 and the makeover is bound to be a fancy one. The front of the building is already being covered by reflective glass windows, which quite successfully conceal the dull concrete mass underneath. New flashy rings of shiny steal have been added to encircle the 330-metre building and more mirrored glass is to be added to the façade as well.


Once finished, the hotel will feature 3000 rooms, five restaurants, a casino, nightclub and many other tourist ‘traps’. Sadly, North Korean foreign policy is not overly warm and inviting to any visitors. Who knows, perhaps by 2012, when the renovation is supposed to be finished, the country’s attitude will change and the Hotel Ryugyong will no longer be known as the Hotel of Doom.






Northern Korean Monstrous Hotel





  1. As a tour operator involved in tourism to North Korea, I dispute your comment \"Sadly, North Korean foreign policy is not overly warm and inviting to any visitors\"

    Fid your reporter speak from personal experience?

    Far Horizons has now operated 5 group tours to the country, the most recent one in 2008, and I have personally made four visits. Our next tour is planned for 2009

    I certainly do not condone many of the regime\'s activities, but in all our dealings with the tourist authorities we have always received the utmost co-operation, and during our visits we have been given a very warm welcome

    But don\'t take my word for it. Here are some of the many comments received from past clients:

    \"As a relatively new tourist destination, North Korea is well worth a visit, if only to see what has been achieved in the complete rebuilding of the capital, Pyongyang. Highlights were as varied as the natural beauties of landscape and mountains; the engineering feat of Nampo\'s West Sea Barrage and the spectacle of high-flying acrobats at a traditional circus. Food was ample, accommodation of a higher than expected standard, guides motivated and attentive, and travel by full-size, well-appointed coach was extremely comfortable\"

    “All hotels exceeded my expectations”

    “Pyongyang is a very impressive city with its green, clean outlook, wide streets and friendly people”

    “Most impressed with North Korea. Agricultural land – fields full of rice and vegetables”

    “Pyongyang was very different from what I expected. Very impressed”

    “The local guide (Honey) appeared to enjoy her position and was most helpful with any request.”

    Yours truly

    Martin Wright

  2. Maybe tourists are welcomed and have no problems in the country. But anyway, I don't think it is the number 1 destination for too many western travellers. I personally don't want to give my money to any communist country. Of course the locals are kind and smiling - you bring money for them.

    (United Kingdom)

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