The 105-story, pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel towers over the Pyongyang skyline, a mysterious and abandoned structure that has earned nicknames like ‘The Worst Building in the History of Mankind’. If you’re looking for a quick answer, the Ryugyong Hotel failed due toa combination of faulty engineering, lack of funding, and the economic collapse of North Korea.

But there’s much more to the story behind this architectural disaster and white elephant.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the original ambitious vision for the Ryugyong Hotel, how the project was plagued by problems from the start, the engineering and design failures, the economic decline in North Korea that left the hotel unfinished for over 20 years, recent attempts to revitalize it, and why it stands unopened today as a monument to failure.

The Origins and Vision Behind the Ryugyong Hotel

Early Plans and Announcements in the 1980s

The Ryugyong Hotel, also known as the “Hotel of Doom,” was initially planned and announced in the 1980s. The vision was to create a grand and iconic hotel that would serve as a symbol of North Korea’s progress and modernity.

Construction began in 1987 and was intended to be completed by 1989 in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students.

The ambitious plans for the Ryugyong Hotel were met with much excitement and anticipation. The sheer size and height of the building, reaching 330 meters (1,083 feet), were meant to showcase North Korea’s engineering capabilities and its commitment to pushing the boundaries of architectural achievements.

Goals to Showcase North Korea’s Progress and Technical Prowess

The Ryugyong Hotel was envisioned as a symbol of North Korea’s progress and technical prowess. It was meant to demonstrate the country’s ability to construct a world-class hotel that would rival any other in the world.

The government hoped that the hotel would attract international attention, boost tourism, and serve as a testament to North Korea’s achievements.

By constructing such a grand hotel, North Korea aimed to project an image of modernity and sophistication to the outside world. The ambition was to demonstrate that North Korea was capable of competing with other developed nations in terms of architectural achievements and luxury accommodations.

Intended Features and Amenities

The Ryugyong Hotel was designed to be a luxurious and extravagant establishment. It was planned to have over 3,000 rooms, multiple restaurants, bars, and shops, as well as a revolving restaurant at the top.

The hotel was also intended to house a casino, swimming pool, and other recreational facilities.

The architectural design of the Ryugyong Hotel was unique and eye-catching, with its pyramid-shaped structure. It was intended to become an iconic landmark in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and a symbol of the country’s development and progress.

However, due to various challenges and setbacks, including financial difficulties and construction delays, the Ryugyong Hotel remained unfinished for many years. It was only in recent years that the building underwent renovations and finally opened its doors to the public in 2018 as the “Ryugyong Hotel of the Sun.”

Engineering and Design Challenges

The Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea is a towering structure that has become a symbol of the country’s ambition and architectural prowess. However, despite its grandeur, the hotel has faced numerous challenges that have contributed to its failure.

These challenges can be attributed to engineering and design flaws that have plagued the project from its inception.

The Unstable Pyramid Structure

The most prominent engineering challenge of the Ryugyong Hotel is its unstable pyramid structure. The building was initially designed to have 105 floors, making it one of the tallest hotels in the world. However, the pyramid shape of the building poses significant structural challenges.

The narrow top and wide base create a high center of gravity, making the building susceptible to strong winds and earthquakes. This design flaw has raised concerns about the overall stability and safety of the structure.

Faulty Low-Quality Materials and Construction

Another major issue that has contributed to the failure of the Ryugyong Hotel is the use of faulty low-quality materials during construction. Reports suggest that the construction of the hotel was rushed, leading to poor workmanship and the use of substandard materials.

This has resulted in various structural problems, such as cracks in the walls and uneven floors. The lack of quality control during the construction process has further compromised the integrity of the building.

Inadequate Elevators and Infrastructure

The Ryugyong Hotel also suffers from inadequate elevators and infrastructure, which has hindered its functionality. The original design of the hotel included only a few elevators, causing long waiting times for guests.

Additionally, the infrastructure supporting the hotel, such as the plumbing and electrical systems, has not been properly maintained or upgraded. This has led to frequent breakdowns and disruptions in the hotel’s operations, further adding to its failure.

It is important to note that the information provided above is based on available reports and analysis. For more in-depth information on the challenges faced by the Ryugyong Hotel, it is recommended to refer to authoritative sources such as architectural journals or reports from reputable engineering organizations.

Funding Troubles and North Korea’s Economic Decline

The High Price Tag and Lack of Investment

The Ryugyong Hotel, often referred to as the “Hotel of Doom,” faced a multitude of challenges that ultimately led to its failure. One of the main reasons behind its downfall was the exorbitant cost of construction and the lack of investment.

The hotel was estimated to cost around $750 million to build, making it one of the most expensive construction projects in North Korea’s history. However, due to the country’s economic struggles and financial constraints, the necessary funds to complete the project were not readily available.

Additionally, the lack of foreign investment played a significant role in the hotel’s failure. North Korea, being a highly isolated country, faced difficulties in attracting international investors. The hotel project was seen as a risky venture, given the political and economic uncertainties surrounding the country.

As a result, there was a limited pool of potential investors, leading to a lack of funding and resources needed for the completion and maintenance of the hotel.

Impact of the Fall of the Soviet Union

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 had a profound impact on North Korea’s economy and further exacerbated the funding troubles of the Ryugyong Hotel. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea had relied heavily on economic aid and support from its communist ally.

The sudden loss of this financial backing left the country in a dire economic situation.

The collapse of the Soviet Union also resulted in a significant decrease in North Korea’s foreign trade and exports. This decline in economic activity made it even more challenging for the country to secure the necessary funds to complete construction projects such as the Ryugyong Hotel.

North Korea’s Famine and Economic Struggles

In the 1990s, North Korea experienced a severe famine, known as the Arduous March, which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. This humanitarian crisis further strained the country’s already struggling economy.

The government had to redirect its limited resources towards food production and the welfare of its citizens, leaving little room for investing in luxury projects like the Ryugyong Hotel.

Moreover, the economic struggles faced by North Korea, including international sanctions and limited access to global markets, hindered the country’s ability to generate revenue and attract foreign investment.

These economic challenges made it nearly impossible for the Ryugyong Hotel to secure the necessary resources for its completion and operation.

The Ryugyong Hotel Stands Unfinished and Abandoned

Over Two Decades Standing Empty

The Ryugyong Hotel, located in the capital city of North Korea, Pyongyang, has become a symbol of both ambition and failure. Construction on the hotel began in 1987, with the initial plan to create the tallest hotel in the world.

However, due to a series of setbacks and complications, the project came to a halt and the building has stood empty for over two decades.

One of the main reasons for the failure of the Ryugyong Hotel is the economic strain it placed on the already struggling North Korean economy. The construction of the hotel required a significant amount of resources and funding, which the country simply could not afford.

Additionally, the lack of skilled labor and expertise in North Korea further hindered progress on the project.

Furthermore, political instability and international sanctions imposed on North Korea have also played a significant role in the hotel’s abandonment. These external factors have limited the country’s ability to attract foreign investment and tourism, leaving the Ryugyong Hotel as a stark reminder of the country’s isolation.

A ‘Hideous’ Addition to the Skyline

Aside from the economic and political challenges, the design of the Ryugyong Hotel has also been a subject of criticism. The futuristic pyramid-shaped structure, standing at 330 meters tall, has been described by some as “hideous” and out of place amongst the predominantly socialist architecture of Pyongyang.

Architectural experts have pointed out various flaws in the design, including the lack of windows and the building’s unstable structure. The hotel was initially intended to house a revolving restaurant and observation deck, but these plans were never realized due to the project’s abandonment.

Today, the Ryugyong Hotel stands as a towering reminder of unrealized dreams and failed ambitions. It serves as a cautionary tale of the challenges that come with grandiose projects in a country facing economic and political hardships.

Attempts to Revitalize and Reopen the Ryugyong

The Ryugyong Hotel, also known as the “Hotel of Doom,” has long been a symbol of North Korea’s ambitious architectural projects. Standing tall at 105 stories, this massive skyscraper was initially envisioned as a symbol of the country’s economic prowess.

However, its construction hit numerous roadblocks, resulting in a prolonged period of abandonment and an uncertain future.

Adding Glass Facades in the 2000s

In an attempt to revive the Ryugyong Hotel, the North Korean government introduced a project in the 2000s to add glass facades to the building’s exterior. The aim was to modernize its appearance and attract potential investors and tourists.

While this renovation brought some improvements to the hotel’s facade, it did not address the underlying structural issues that had plagued the project from the beginning.

The addition of glass facades was an attempt to make the Ryugyong Hotel more visually appealing, but it did not address the fundamental problems with the building’s construction. The lack of proper infrastructure, the absence of essential amenities, and the questionable stability of the structure remained major concerns.

Launching the Smart Construction Project

In recent years, the North Korean government launched the Smart Construction Project, which aimed to utilize advanced technology and modern construction methods to complete the Ryugyong Hotel. The project included plans to equip the building with state-of-the-art facilities and amenities, turning it into a luxury destination for tourists and visitors.

However, despite these efforts, the Ryugyong Hotel remains unfinished and inaccessible to the public. The challenges associated with completing such a massive project, combined with the economic hardships faced by the country, have hindered progress.

The Smart Construction Project, while promising, has not yet resulted in the successful reopening of the hotel.

Brunei Offering Funding in 2018, But Still Unfinished

In 2018, Brunei reportedly offered financial assistance to North Korea to help complete the Ryugyong Hotel. This offer raised hopes that the long-awaited opening of the hotel was finally within reach. However, as of now, the hotel remains unfinished, and it is unclear whether the funding from Brunei was sufficient to overcome the remaining challenges.

Despite the ongoing efforts to revitalize and reopen the Ryugyong Hotel, its completion and successful operation seem elusive. The future of this iconic building hangs in the balance, as the North Korean government continues to grapple with various obstacles.

Only time will tell if the Ryugyong Hotel will ever become the architectural marvel it was intended to be.

Why the Ryugyong Hotel Remains Unopened Today

The Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea, often referred to as the “Hotel of Doom,” has gained notoriety for its unfinished state and lack of occupancy. Despite being under construction for over three decades, the hotel remains unopened to this day.

Several factors contribute to the failure of this ambitious project.

The Economic Realities in North Korea

One of the main reasons why the Ryugyong Hotel remains unopened is the economic situation in North Korea. The country has faced severe economic challenges, including international sanctions and limited resources.

These factors have hindered the completion of large-scale projects like the Ryugyong Hotel. The government has prioritized other areas such as agriculture and infrastructure development, leaving the hotel project on the backburner.

Additionally, the lack of a robust tourism industry in North Korea has also played a role in the hotel’s failure. Despite its grandiose design, the demand for luxury accommodations in the country is limited.

Tourist numbers are relatively low, and most visitors stay in other hotels that are already operational and more accessible.

Structural and Design Limitations

Another contributing factor to the failure of the Ryugyong Hotel is its structural and design limitations. The initial construction of the hotel faced numerous challenges, including technical and engineering difficulties.

The building’s sheer height and unique design presented unprecedented challenges for the architects and engineers involved.

Furthermore, the hotel’s design, which was intended to resemble a pyramid, posed challenges in terms of functionality and practicality. The large size and unconventional shape made it difficult to accommodate necessary amenities and infrastructure.

As a result, the hotel’s interior layout and functionality were compromised, making it less attractive to potential guests and investors.

A Project Cursed from the Start

The Ryugyong Hotel’s failure can also be attributed to the numerous setbacks and obstacles it faced since its inception. Construction on the hotel began in 1987 but was abruptly halted in the early 1990s due to economic difficulties and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was a major source of financial and technical support for the project.

Even after resuming construction in the early 2000s, the hotel faced significant delays and design changes. These setbacks further added to the hotel’s negative reputation and deterred potential investors.

The constant construction delays and uncertainty surrounding the project have made it difficult to gain the necessary support and funding to complete and open the hotel.


The Ryugyong Hotel stands as an abandoned shell, representing the dashed hopes and failed ambition of North Korea. While it was intended to showcase the country’s prosperity and technical capabilities, in reality it embodies the economic struggles, isolation, and engineering failures in North Korea.

With problematic structural issues and the realities of the country’s economy, it’s unlikely the ‘Hotel of Doom’ will ever fulfill its original grand vision. The unfinished Ryugyong Hotel serves as a cautionary tale in blind ambition and flawed planning.

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