Ryugyong Hotel, the world’s tallest empty building, lights up with North Korean propaganda
There is no public date as to when, or if, the Ryugyong Hotel will open its doors. (AP: Dita Alangkara)
The 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel has long been a blot on the Pyongyang skyline.
- The hotel, built in 1987, remains unfinished and unoccupied
- Critics view the building as a failure and question if it is structurally sound
- The light show flashes political slogans such as “single-minded unity”
The world’s tallest unoccupied building has towered over North Korea’s capital since 1987, a grand but empty pyramid entirely dark except for the lone aircraft warning light at its top.
Outsiders saw the unfinished building as the epitome of failure, while people inside the country took care to rarely mention it at all.
That is, until light designer Kim Yong Il made the building once again the talk of the town.
For several hours each night, the building that doesn’t have electricity inside, becomes the backdrop of a massive light show in which more than 100,000 LEDs flash images of famous statues and monuments, bursts of fireworks, party symbols and political slogans.
Kim Yong II is the designer of the light show on the facade of the pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel. (AP: Dita Alangkara)
The Ryugyong is still unfinished. There’s no public date when, or if, it will host its elusive first guest.
Questions remain over whether the glass-and-concrete hotel is structurally sound.
“I feel really proud,” Mr Kim, the vice department director of the Korean Light Decoration Centre, said.
“I made this magnificent design for this gigantic building and when people see it, it makes them feel good. It makes me proud to work as a designer.”
The unfinished building is the backdrop of a massive light show featuring party symbols and slogans. (AP: Dita Alangkara)
The display was first lit in April to mark the birthday of the country’s “eternal president”, Kim II-sung.
The show’s designer said the preparations took about five months.
The 330-meter Ryugyong tower has three distinct sides. The main show is displayed on the front, while simpler designs light up the other two.
For a conical section at the very top, Mr Kim created the image of the red, white and blue North Korean flag waving in the wind. It is 40 meters tall and visible from any direction.
The four-minute light show begins with an animation showing the history of the nation, followed by homages to ideals like self-reliance and revolutionary spirit and a procession of 17 political slogans such as “single-minded unity”, ”harmonious whole” and “100 battles, 100 victories”.
The 105-story building that has towered over Pyongyang since 1987 is still unfinished. (AP: Dita Alangkara)
The Ryugyong is a big part of the legacy of second-generation leader Kim Jong-il, who is the late father of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
He ordered it built as part Pyongyang’s preparations for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, which it hosted in 1989 as a kind of counterpoint to the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
The Ryugyong was supposed to be the world’s tallest hotel, surpassing another in Singapore that was built by a South Korean company, but the building fell by the wayside as North Korea experienced a severe economic crash and famines in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union.
It languished in limbo until Egypt’s Orascom Group, which established the North’s cell phone system, helped fund the completion of its glassy exterior in 2011.