Inside North Korea: Stalinist ruin may be demolished

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The hotel’s days could be numbered, as the incoming North Korean regime takes a dim view of foreign tourism

Inside North Korea, the Pyongyang International Hotel looks a picture of a bright and cheerful building. But once you step into the premises, the 13th century building is more like a creepy refugee camp.

Tents stand on the edge of the site, housing refugees who once tried to cross the border into South Korea.

The former Soviet Union left behind much of its old infrastructure when it failed to build a nuclear bomb, but a final blow has now been dealt to this Soviet legacy – the evacuation of employees.

First opened in 1958, the hotel was once the most luxurious in North Korea. Its restaurant was famous, and it also contained a garage for machinery.

For many years, the North maintained a robust trade relationship with Russia, exporting oil, coal and iron ore.

But a US-led embargo in the 1980s led to a loss of support from the two countries’ governments. In the wake of the annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putin declared the Russian blockade of the Korean peninsula. By 2006, the Soviet union was effectively reduced to a state of bankruptcy, and the Soviet headquarter in Moscow formally handed over control of the North Korean arm of the enterprise to the North Koreans.

Before it closed down in 2018, officials hoped to reopen the hotel to serve as the headquarters of the government of North Korea, which has often stressed its love of education, tourism and cultural projects.

But the newly-elected Kim Jong-un administration is skeptical of tourist trips and said it preferred to rehabilitate the heritage of its underdeveloped nation.

Despite the warning signs, the building has already been heavily graffiti’d with the message “The world’s worst hotel”.

Leave a Comment