Excerpts from the book
      ...Changsuwon Palace
      ...Ryugyong Hotel
      ...Ryunhwanson Street

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Ryugyong Hotel
A giant among giants, the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel bestrides the city like a colossus. At 323 meters, it stands as tall as the Eiffel Tower and ranks among the 20 tallest buildings in the world. The finished hotel is to contain 3,000 rooms and to be topped by three revolving restaurants with a view all the way to the west coast.
However, no one knows if the Ryugyong will ever be completed. It was intended to open in June 1989 for the World Festival of Youth and Students. But only the shell of the building was finished when construction was halted. Foreign accounts blame the work stoppage on crooked elevator shafts, cracking concrete or simply a lack of funds. To this day, the building sits empty.
With its monumental scale and turret-like projections, the Ryugyong faintly echoes Moscow's Stalinist skyscrapers. And its pyramid silhouette speaks to the regime's pharaonic ambitions. Such grandiosity is nothing new. What astonishes is the building's intended function. A hotel, in a country that straitjackets all travel? Why would this hyper-isolationist regime construct its biggest building for foreign visitors?
Oneupmanship was a key motive. A South Korean firm had just finished construction of what was then the world's tallest hotel, the Stamford in Singapore. The same regime that claims to "envy nothing in the world" wanted to steal the South Koreans' thunder.


Photo © Eckart Dege