Windows on the Monolith

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the unseemingly and immense Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang has, finally, been adorned with windows:

Here it is
Before and After

All hail the 150-day battle!  If it can finish the business that all started with the disastrous investments for the 1989 Youth Games, someone should be very pleased.

However, the Herald reports that only one side of the building has thus far been completed, leaving it open to doubt if it will take another twenty years to shield the remaining two sides of this eyesore.

One of the most poingant comments on the building comes in the form of an anecdote from a North Korean cadre, reported in the little-noticed Good Friends report of September 3:

Pyungyang News – Ryukyung Hotel or Ryukyung Tower?

One day in July, at around 5 am, the Pyung-Kang (Pyungyang – Kangye) train slowly approached the main terminal in Pyungyang, cutting through thick fog. After a big stretch to awaken my muscle, I collected my luggage and stepped out of the Sleeper (Hard) train. It was a homecoming for me after a year. Last year I worked on the design, construction and review process of hydroelectric power plants in the northern area and went to various hydroelectric power plant construction sites located in the provinces of Jagang, Ryanggang, and North Hamgyong Province, for about a year. My return to Pyungyang was due to personnel rotation. At the platform a staff from our department was waiting to welcome me.

After exchanging pleasantries, the staff said, “Comrade Deputy Director, you’ve worked really hard. How about going home today to get some rest and do the reporting to the Party Committee tomorrow? I’ve got the car waiting and can take you home.”

I responded with a smile. “It’s 150-Day Battle period now. If I went home, wouldn’t you guys criticize me at the Party Activities time? Let’s go to the Bureau quickly. Going home is not important.”

The car was a Whistle. I asked what had happened because when I was here it was a Nissan.

“What happened to Nissan? Why was the car replaced?”
“Nissan was turned in already. As the import of Japan-made automobiles was prohibited, (we received) a Whistle manufactured by the Pyunghwa Automobile Company.” he said. He then added, somewhat awkwardly, “It has run 8,000 kilometers and it’s all right. The Whistles are not inferior in terms of quality to Western cars.”

When we arrived at Sinseol Bridge over Botong River, the gigantic Ryukyung Hotel appeared before my eyes. Up until a year ago, Ryukyung Hotel looked gawky, but now glasses were installed and the crane at the top of the building was gone. It had been completely upgraded.

Being excited by the good-looking exterior, I asked: “If the exterior was finished like this, the interior work must have been done over 80 percent. This is a real miracle. How did they complete it so quickly?”

The staff said: “Oh, you don’t know what happened. The design has changed. In particular, the interior has been completely restyled. It’s no longer the original design for Ryukyung Hotel.”
In its original blue print, the Ryukyung Hotel had over 5,000 rooms, and about 47 elevators. I was curious how it had changed.

The staff immediately declared, “We shouldn’t get involved in it.” However, he added, “From now on we don’t know whether we should call it Ryukyung Hotel or Ryukyung Tower.” After I asked him a further explanation, he said: “According to the instruction from the Central Party, Mt. Bakdu Architect Research staff collaborated with the Italians to change the design. They completed several floors up from the ground and the viewing area at the top floor, and got rid of all the rooms in between, leaving only the elevators. It’s more like a tower than a hotel.”

I asked him what happened to the five thousand rooms and he said, “They wrapped the outside with glasses to make it look good, and the rooms in between became useless.” I was so flabbergasted, and unconsciously raised my voice: “How can they do this? It’s like mewing with the eyes covered (an expression similar to putting one’s head into the sand -translator.) How could you call this Ryukyung Hotel? We bragged this would be the largest hotel in the world, but if there are only several rooms in the lower floors and the top floor available, what’s there to boast about? How are we going to explain it to our future generation?”

The immediate response was: “Comrade Deputy Director, it was decided by the Central Party based on Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s command. Is it all right for you to criticize it?”

“Now that you are saying Chairman Kim commanded, I have nothing further to say. But don’t you guys have common sense? How could you do this?” I spilled out all my concerns. How come Ryukyung Hotel, symbol of the “Strong and Prosperous Nation” in Year 2012, has turned into a grotesque tower? No matter how insufficient money is, what a shame! We can no longer boast about the Ruykyung Hotel in the future.

Perhaps this man could have kept up with the construction of the hotel if he had been able to follow progress via the Internet, as the Ryugyong Hotels has its own dynamic website.

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