It could be yet another false dawn, but it appears that – after 30 years of gathering dust – North Korea’s so-called “Hotel of Doom” might be nearing completion.
The imposing pyramid structure has loomed over the nation’s capital, Pyongyang, for three decades, but construction has stalled time and time again, leaving the building merely an expensive shell.
However, new satellite images appear to show work has restarted on the 3,000-room, 105-storey establishment officially known as the Ryugyong Hotel, with cranes and building trucks milling around its base.
There have also been rumours that officials plan to open parts of the landmark to the public in the near future.
German tourist Till Mosler, who visited Pyongyang recently, said his guides in the city boasted that the hotel would soon be finished.
“During my stay I realised some work activity around the entrance hall and surroundings. It seems the area around the building will be prepared,” he said.
“Also our Korean guides told us that there might be plans to open some parts of the building for public or offices. But not the whole building so far as they know.”
Another tourist, Sophie Delaloye, said that her guides showed a mixture of pride and embarrassment when discussing the giant structure.
Last December, Telegraph Travel reported that lights had been spotted inside the hotel for the first time in years, while Egyptian development company Orascom, thought to behind the construction, was in Pyongyang to discuss its future.
Work on the building began in 1987, as then leader Kim Il-Sung set his sights on developing the country’s tourism industry.
Construction cost a reported £470 million, which at the time was equivalent to two per cent of North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the project was abandoned in 1992 as North Korea fell on hard times following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its leading benefactor.
According to the author Marcus Noland, who has written extensively about North Korea, an inspection by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in the Nineties concluded that the hotel was irreparable.
Poor quality concrete and crooked elevator shafts were cited as the main issues with the building.
Undeterred, the North Korean regime has tried on several occasions to revive the ill-fated project. In 2008, windows were finally added and in the same year an opening date of 2012 was announced, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of “Eternal President”, Kim Il-Sung.
For all its grandiose ambitions, the building does not, at 1,080 feet, rank among the world’s top 50 tallest buildings. However, it would take fourth spot in a list of the world’s tallest hotels.
Even if it does open its door, few Britons will be spending the night. In August, the Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to North Korea in the wake of heightened tension between the communist nation and the West.