Two new access roads appear to have been connected to Pyongyang’s iconic-but-unfinished Ryugyong Hotel, January-dated photos seen by NK News show.
The addition of asphalt and painted road markings to two causeways connecting the hotel entrance to nearby Sinwon street follows the July 2017 removal of a large wall that for years blocked public access to the hotel area.
The road-surfacing was completed at the end of October last year, nearly two months after a spate of other construction activity was detected around the base of the building, satellite imagery of the area published by Planet.com indicates.
“The two overpasses are all done (with) brand new road,” said an informed source on condition of anonymity.
“It looks like you can just go up there because there are no checkpoints or anything, which is odd as usually there are checkpoints for things like that,” the source added. “But nobody is driving up there.”
However, a close inspection of both ground-level and satellite images shows the roads do not exactly connect with the adjacent street, suggesting some remaining work will be required in order to facilitate vehicle access.
A separate photo from last September showed lights on in a room near the top of the tower: roughly the same spot in which three rooms appeared illuminated by night in an NK News video shot in October 2016.
Together, the changes may all be linked to an unconfirmed rumor that there are plans to open parts of the building for commercial purposes in future.
“They’re building two or possibly three hotels around the Ryugyong Hotel which is why there’s a lot of construction happening mostly around the hotel and not actually on it,” said another source about the activity in October last year.
Although signs of life around the building and recent rumors suggest that it is conceivable that parts of the building might be opened, there have nonetheless been several similar false-starts in the incomplete building’s three-decade-long history.
While Egyptian company Orascom was believed to have spent millions on the building to get it fully-glazed by 2011, photos released by the Beijing-based Koryo Tours agency showed in 2012 that the structure was still empty, without fixtures or furnishings visible.
And though luxury hotel company Kempinski announced in 2012 that it would be opening a small hotel at the top of the building, it pulled out in early 2013, stating to NK News that “market entry is not currently possible”.
North Korean officials previously claimed the building would eventually contain the country’s premier restaurants, hotel accommodation, apartments, and business facilities.
Featured image: NK News