Huge N. Korea hotel begun in 1980s might open soon

Associated Press
FILE - In this April 1, 2012 file photo, the sun is reflected from the top of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel, which remains under construction, in Pyongyang, North Korea. International hotel operator Kempinski AG said Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 it will manage the pyramid-shaped hotel that is expected to open next year with shops, offices, ball rooms and restaurants and 150 rooms. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The 105-story, pyramid-shaped hotel that has stood over North Korea's capital city like a mountain for more than 20 years just might be on the verge of opening for the first time.

Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel will "partially, probably" open in the middle of next year, Reto Wittwer, CEO of international hotel operator Kempinski AG, said Thursday at a forum in Seoul.

Kempinski will manage the hotel, which Wittwer said will open with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms.

The enormous hotel has been a source of fascination and ridicule for the outside world and an oversized embarrassment for North Korea's authoritarian regime.

North Korea began building the Ryugyong in the 1980s but stopped when funding ran out in the 1990s. Exterior construction resumed in 2009.

Various reports in recent years said the hotel was preparing to finally open. In September, a Beijing-based tour agency was allowed to peek inside and released pictures of the bare concrete lobby.

Wittwer said he first saw a picture of the hotel many years ago and thought then that it could eventually make a lot of money.

He said Cairo-based Orascom Telecom is funding the construction. The firm launched a mobile network in North Korea in 2008.

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