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November 12, 2012

N. Korean hotel might open 20 years after construction began

SEOUL, South Korea

The 105-storey, 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.

There have been various reports in recent years that 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.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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