North Korea's largest hotel is finally set to open after 23 years

Ryugyong in North Korea (Photo Credit: yeowatzup via Flikr)

North Korea's Ryugyong Hotel is finally set to open after 23 years of construction and financial struggles, according to the Washington Post. It is one of the world's largest buildings as well as one of the most ridiculed, looking similar to a rocket ship.

Ryugyong has never been opened for business despite the original hype of the facility having 3,000 rooms, five restaurants, a bowling alley, a nightclub, and the government featured on the hotels official stamps. But having never being finished, it is only seen as a symbol for North Korea's failures. The country has occasionally chosen to airbrush out the building in skyline photos.

Construction began in 1987 but was halted four years later when funding ran out. For years, a crane was a part of their skyline. "It was the hotel with the iconic crane," said Simon Cockerell, an executive at Bejing-based Koryo Tours, which leads tourist groups to North Korea, according to the Washington Post.

The intention is to finish the hotel is to show off economic strength even though the government relied on an outside investment from an Egyptian telecom company, Orascom, to complete the hotel.

Even after opening, Cockerell mentioned that a “common rumor in Pyongyang” was that many of the middle floors would still be left vacant, with the bottom for hotel rooms and the top for restaurants.

Originally, the concept of the building came from the need to compete with the South. As the South was preparing to host the 1988 Summer Olympics and was building many high-rises, the North decided to compete by building the Ryugyong which was going to be 200 feet higher than the highest building planned. At this point, with aid coming from the Soviet Union, the North could afford it. But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, their funds and supply of raw materials ended abruptly.

Esquire magazine has called it "the worst building in the history of mankind."

In 2008, Orascom agreed to begin renovations.

In 2009, the crane disappeared from the skyline.