Building Boom Under Kim Jong Un: 5 New North Korean Developments
Amid escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, the East Asian country is focusing heavily on how it appears in the eyes of the rest of the world. Within the past decade, Kim Jong Un has pushed to construct several lavish buildings that project an image of growth and prosperity in the communist state. The country has also been holding “speed campaigns" to complete massive construction projects in record time. The completion of these megaprojects often coincide with big national holidays or with the celebration of past leaders. In the country, major commercial real estate projects are still controlled by the government. The buildings are typically officially unveiled in a military ceremony with top government officials present.
Here are five major commercial developments in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital and the largest city in the country, that came online in the last five years.
Ryugyong Hotel, aka the “Hotel of Doom”
Size: 105 stories (1,080 feet tall)
The Ryugyong Hotel, also known as the “Hotel of Doom,” is an unfinished hotel in the heart of Pyongyang. It is known as the largest abandoned building in the world, and voted the “Worst Building in the History of Mankind” by Esquire Magazine in 2008 for being vacant for decades with little hope of ever being completed. Construction began in 1987, with an expected completion time of two years, but a range of issues led to its delay. Challenges from construction and material issues, to a lack of funding led to a complete stop in construction in 1993. In 2008, Orascom, an Egyptian telecommunications company, paid a reported $180M to finish the glass face of the hotel structure. Germany’s Kempinski Group, which originally planned to revamp the hotel as a mixed-use project, also distanced itself from the project in 2012.
Size: Two dozen buildings
Ryomyong Street is a residential high-rise street in North Korea's capital where more than two dozen buildings housing 3,000 apartment units, including North Korea's tallest apartment building, are located. The apartment buildings were constructed along this street in less than one year, the country boasts, for $214M. During the construction process, a building collapsed in February that killed and injured 30 people, causing many to question the safety of the new buildings. The street opened in April, with tens of thousands of North Koreans in attendance for the official ceremony. The April 15 deadline for the opening coincided with the Day of the Sun, a Korean national holiday, and Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju said that “the completion of this street is more powerful than 100 nuclear warheads.”
Munsu Water Park
Size: 27 acres
The 27-acre Munsu Water Park has all the typical features of a modern water park, with 14 water slides, alongside swimming pools and glass pyramids. Government officials instructed architects to build only thrilling rides, and to ensure that there were two times as many slides as water parks in other countries. The water park is open to the public and to outside visitors, but with the steep price of entry the park is typically filled with only wealthy North Koreans and foreigners. Kim is also working to build another water park in the Kamchatka region in the Far East of Russia.
Mirae Scientists Street
Size: 2,500 units
The Mirae Scientists Street, also known as the Future Scientists Street, is an assortment of residential buildings designated specifically for North Korean scientists and teachers. The tallest building along the street is the 53-story Mirae Unha Tower. The street officially opened in November 2015 and was completed in under a year to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). The quick delivery of the buildings resulted in a handful of problems. When the buildings came online some apartment units did not have running water or any heat when families initially moved in.
Masikryong Ski Resort
Size: 10 slopes, 940 square miles
The Masikryong Ski Resort, a three-hour drive from Pyongyang, boasts 10 ski slopes, with the tallest slope reaching 4,000 feet. Amenities at this ski resort include a luxury hotel and restaurants, alongside a ski rental shop. The resort opened under a timeline of 10 months of construction and officials claim it generates $70K/year in revenue. However, the resort is mostly deserted, and has been criticized for being kept open by work gangs of men, women and children. In a country where an estimated 0.02% of the population skis, the resort's expensive prices (like its $1K ski jackets) is one factor keeping North Korean citizens from visiting en masse.