Pyongyang: Home to the Tallest Hotel in the World That Could, but Will Never Be

ByABC News
October 20, 2006, 10:45 AM

Oct. 23, 2006 — -- Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel, a structure that if it were ever possible to finish would have been the world's tallest hotel, is symbolic of the state of North Korea itself.

The building is incredibly ambitious and very secretive. There are many conflicting versions of its story from the few you can find to talk about it.

One part that's almost always never left out is the assertion that one day the magnificent structure may just have to come down because whatever is holding it together has got to be faulty.

Yet it still continues to stand in staunch defiance of all outside it.

"You know the scene in 'The Wizard of Oz'?" asked Mike Chinoy, a former Asian correspondent for CNN and now the Edgarton fellow at the Pacific Council on Foreign Policy.

"Every time I've driven to [North Korea's capital] Pyongyang, there's this thing that's ticking up from way in the distance and it's so out of sync with everything that it becomes a great metaphor for North Korea in many ways."

Those interviewed had visited Pyongyang since the Ryugyong Hotel was started in the late '80s.

They all said virtually the same thing: As an outsider you just can't avoid asking what that humongous monstrosity is, but it's almost impossible to get anyone to talk about it -- let alone secure a hotel reservation for the night.

"The hotel's pretty incredible to see, and it does dominate the skyline," said Andrew Morse, an ABC News producer who's seen the building on his trips to Pyongyang.

"My Korean minders weren't keen to talk about it, so I don't know much, but I can definitely confirm that it exists," Morse said.

What you can see in a picture is the outline of a great pyramid with jetsonian revolving disks at the top.

There are no windows, pipes, lighting, fixtures, or the North Korean version of the AAA seal of approval hanging out front.

Nothing is inside the place but black shadows. A crane still sits at the top.