The Ryugyong (North Korea)
During the mid-1980s, North Korea wanted to change its image by building something massive, something that would be world-renowned. The project would symbolize progress for North Korea and introduce new, Western investors. The decision was made to build a hotel that was taller than any in the world, and in 1987 construction on the Ryugyong Hotel began. It was intended to be completed in 1989, in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, but developers would face nearly every conceivable hurdle, and by 1992 the project was abandoned.
In an effort to attract Western dollars, North Koreans drew up plans for a 105 floor hotel – the largest in the world – and promised a complete laissez-faire attitude in terms of oversight of the construction and planned hotel activities. Casinos, nightclubs, and fancy restaurants were encouraged. When the project was planned, the estimated cost to build the “largest hotel in the world” would be around $230 million.
Construction began in 1987, but by 1992 numerous delays and problems had driven the cost up to over $750 million, or 2% of North Korea’s entire GDP. The building finally reached its full architectural height by 1992, but a broke government and a lack of foreign investors meant the project would be abandoned before completion. Had the hotel been finished as originally planned, it would have stood as the tallest hotel and the seventh tallest building in the world.
In fact, the unfinished Ryugyong was not surpassed in height by another hotel until 2009.