It’s a ready-to-launch spaceship, it’s a post-apocalyptic command center—no, it’s a completely empty hotel. Towering above the boxy gray buildings of downtown Pyongyang, the abandoned, 1,083-foot building is aptly nicknamed North Korea’s “Hotel of Doom.”
For 27 years, the 105 floors of Ryugyong Hotel, a monstrous three-winged, glass-and-concrete pyramid, have gone unused. Its presence is a looming reminder of the estimated $750 million wasted on a tourism industry that never materialized, and an absurd misuse of funds in a country where food, electricity, and health care for citizens are scarce.
North Korea broke ground on the project in 1987, with a two-year timeline for completion. Overseen by the regime of Kim Il-Sung—the current dictator’s grandfather—the hotel was seen as a rib at South Korea for winning the 1988 Olympic Games after the DPRK had proposed the neighboring countries share hosting duties.