Orascom completing Ryugyong Hotel

UPDATE 8:   According to the BBC, Orascom claims the final plans for the hotel have yet to be approved:

Dozens of Egyptian engineers and some 2,000 local workers are working on the Ryugyong project, which Orascom’s chief operating officer Khaled Bichara tells the BBC is “progressing well”, despite reported problems with suspect concrete and misaligned lift shafts.

“There have been no issues that have caused us too much trouble,” Mr Bichara says. “Most of the work at the moment is coverage of different areas of the building. The first job is to finish the outside – you can’t work on the insides until the outside is covered.

“You can see that we have already completed the top of the building where the revolving restaurant will be. After 2010, that’s when it will be fully safe to start building from the inside.”

How the building will be divided up is not yet finalised the company says, but it will be a mixture of hotel accommodation, apartments and business facilities. Antennae and equipment for Orascom’s mobile network will nestle at the very top.

Mr Bichara denies reports that the company’s exclusive access to North Korea’s fledgling telecoms market is directly linked to the completion of the hotel.

But he says the job is a way of planting a rather tall flag in the ground. “We haven’t been given a deadline, we are not tied into doing it by a certain time,” he said.

“But when you work in a market like this, where we cannot sponsor things, a project of this kind is good to do – it’s word of mouth advertising for us, it builds good rapport with the people – on its own it’s a great symbol, one which cements our investment.”

Read the full article here:
Will ‘Hotel of Doom’ ever be finished?

Read previous posts about the Ryugyong’s construction below:

UPDATE 7:  Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-5-13-1

Once abandoned, considered a failure and an embarrassment, it now appears that North Korea’s tallest building will be completed by 2012. The Ryugyong Hotel is becoming the largest symbol of the North’s plan to construct a ‘Strong and Prosperous Nation’ by the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. The hotel, on the bank of the Botong River, stands 105 stories tall.

An article in the May 11 copy of the Choson Sinbo proclaimed, “Like a phoenix ceaselessly reaching for the sky, the high-rising Ryugyong Hotel is one emblem of North Korea, which is soundly knocking on the door of [becoming] a Strong and Prosperous Nation.” The North has set 2012 as the year that door will be swung open. The newspaper described the hotel as a “phoenix” after a May 1 celebration, “We Will Triumph!” at which the hotel was used as the background for a fireworks display.

The paper reported on the “brilliant cannon salute” fired from this “super-highrise” at heights “not imaginable” to the spectators, creating a “picturesque view” of Pyongyang” as the fireworks display created a “grand spectacle” centered on the “magnificent 300m-tall building.” This praise is a significant change from the North’s previous practices of removing the hotel from pictures and portraits of the city skyline, leaving if off of city maps, and diverting tourist groups around it.

Construction began on the hotel in 1987, but was halted without completion of interior or exterior surfaces in 1992. Since last year, construction has been underway on 10,000 private residences in Pyongyang as part of its modernization drive, and at the same time, the hotel has been receiving a facelift, with large glass panels being installed on its exterior.

It is also worth mentioning that the Ryugyong was the centerpiece of the DPRK’s (very long) May Day fireworks show. Below are three pictures released by KCNA. These pictures indicate that as of this month, only one of the builing’s three sides is covered in glass.

ryugyong1.jpg ryugyong2.jpg ryugyong3.jpg
Click above for larger images

More on the fireworks show here.

UPDATE 6: Alejandro Cao de Benos has posted pictures from the most recent KFA business delegation to the DPRK.  His pictures of the Ryugyong are here, here, and here.

UPDATE 5:  A recent visitor to the DPRK sends in this photo of the Ryugyong Hotel taken in the last week.


UPDATE 4: It appears that work on the exterior of the Ryugyong is well underway.  Once completed, Pyongyang will appear forever changed.

In the picture below, taken by Kernbeisser in late 2008/early 2009, we can see that the exterior of the building is nearly covered in glass.


Click on image for full size

When completed, it should look something like this (taken from the KFA web page):


Click on image for full size

I am still waiting for specific details pertaining to the interior of the building.  I am willing to bet that the structure will be a fitting metaphor of Pyongyang in more ways than one.

UPDATE 3: A reader provides a link to a picture of the construction that dates back to June. 

UPDATE 2: Back in May, we reported that Orascom, the latest company to try and build a mobile phone network in North Korea, was also going to re-start construciton of Pyongyang’s famous white elephant, the Ryugyong Hotel.

According to Reuters, construction has begun:

Once dubbed by Esquire magazine as “the worst building in the history of mankind”, the 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel is back under construction after a 16-year lull in the capital of one of the world’s most reclusive and destitute countries.

According to foreign residents in Pyongyang, Egypt’s Orascom group has recently begun refurbishing the top floors of the three-sided pyramid-shaped hotel whose 330-metre (1,083 ft) frame dominates the Pyongyang skyline.

The firm has put glass panels into the concrete shell, installed telecommunications antennas — even though the North forbids its citizens to own mobile phones — and put up an artist’s impression of what it will look like.

This is still my favorite construction plan.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s “Hotel of Doom” wakes from its coma
Jon Herskovitz

UPDATE 1: No your eyes do not deceive you!  According to Yonhap,  Orascom Telecom (the people behind the DPRK’s latest efforts at building a moile network) also appear to be partnering with the DPRK on completing the Ryugyong Hotel:

North Korea resumed the construction of a highrise hotel building in Pyongyang last month, which was suspended for nearly 20 years due to funding problems, informed sources here said Monday.

“North Korean authorities restarted the construction of Ryugyong Hotel in April,” the sources said, quoting those who recently returned from trips to Pyongyang.

Orascom Telecom Holding of Egypt is North Korea’s partner for the construction, the sources said. “If completed, the hotel will be used as an accommodation for foreign investors and visitors, a business center and an international convention center among others,” a source said.

The 330-meter hotel is expected to be the world’s tallest when completed.(Yonhap)

Whatever they do, it will not be as cool as this.

Here is the IFES take:

ORASCOM and DPRK to complete Ryugyong Hotel Construction
Institute for Far Eastern Studies
NK Brief No. 08-5-20-1

Sources recently returning to China from Pyongyang have reported that North Korea has resumed efforts to complete the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel. With only 20 buildings in the world taller than the 330-meter structure, it would be by far the largest building in all of North Korea.

Baekdu Mountain Architects and Engineers began building the highrise in 1987 but halted construction in 1992 amid economic hardships and rumors of structural deficiencies. The North has been seeking foreign investment of up to 300 million USD to complete the structure.

Traders in Shenyang, China with ties to Pyongyang say the North has now found that funding, partnering with Egypt’s Orascom Group. Orascom has publicized significant investment plans for North Korea in the last twelve months. Orascom Telecom Holding announced on January 30 of this year that it had been granted the first-ever commercial license to provide WCDMA 3G technology-based cellular service to North Korea, and put forth plans to invest 400 million USD to create a nationwide infrastructure.

This deal followed on the heals of Orascom’s first venture into DPRK investment, announced in mid July, 2007, when Orascom Construction Industries purchased a 50 percent stake in the North’s Sangwon Cement Factory near Pyongyang. This venture involved the injection of 115 million USD, which is being used to modernize the facility and increase production capacity from 2.5 million tons to 3 million tons per year.

In addition to Orascom Telecom Holding and Orascom Construction Industries, the Orascom Group also includes Orascom Hotels and Development and Orascom Technology Solutions.

Read the full article here:
N. Korea resumes construction of luxury hotel 

Orascom Completes 3G Test Call in North Korea
Cellular News

Orascom Telecom has announced the successful completion of the first call on the CHEO network in North Korea. Orascom  says that the success of this trial network using WCDMA technology represents the first step in providing coverage throughout the country.

CHEO, a subsidiary of Orascom Telecom, is looking to launch its full commercial mobile services within the second half of 2008.

Earlier this year, the company said that it expects to sign up an initial 100,000 subscribers when it launches its new GSM network in North Korea. Speaking on a conference call, CEO Naguib Sawiris said that the service would start in three main cities in the country and the company will then pause to assess the impact.

The company aims to spend an initial US$200 million on the network over the next twelve months, with US$100 per year for the two years after that.

Orascom’s license was granted to the company’s subsidiary CHEO Technology JV Company (“CHEO”) which is controlled by Orascom Telecom with an ownership of 75% while the remaining 25% is owned by the state owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation. The terms of the license allows CHEO to offer services to its customer throughout the country, the duration of the license is 25 years with an exclusivity period of four years.

Regulators in the country met with their counterparts in China in March to discuss controlling mobile radio frequencies along the border between the two countries.

Plans by South Korean companies to build a CDMA network in the capital city in 2002 were cancelled following diplomatic pressure by the USA.


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