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View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
A huge LED-style display has been added to the top of Pyongyang’s iconic 105-floor Ryugyong Hotel, photos and videos dated Sunday and Monday seen by NK News show.
The animated display, which spans an at least five-floor cone-shaped structure near the top of the pyramid-shaped building, was seen in pictures and video depicting a large North Korean flag appearing to blow in the wind.
From videos and pictures it’s not yet clear whether the display can be visible from all sides of the building, though timing suggests it could have been visible to a high-profile South Korean K-pop delegation currently visiting the city.
The location of the display notably also appears to be in the same section of the unfinished hotel, which sources previously told NK News may one-day house revolving restaurants.
The addition of the LED display comes after a flurry of other minor construction activities observed at the building in recent months.
Two access jetties were asphalted and connected to an entrance area of the hotel, January-dated photos published by NK News showed.
And an entrance wall which for years blocked access to the jetties was removed last July, a move which came after a new apartment was raised adjacent to the same access area.
Meanwhile, a separate photo from last September 2017 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.
That video was notable because there had been no sign of construction or occupancy at the iconic structure since window panes and a telecommunications mast had been installed in 2011.
But rumors about what precisely the limited construction indicators are for continue to swirl.
Besides claims about revolving restaurants, another source said some North Korean officials have been told their offices could be moved to the building in future.
After glazing had been added to the building structure by 2011, the only other major development at the site was the addition of the jetty structure around 2013.
Orascom, the Egyptian majority shareholder of North Korea’s Koryolink cellphone network, was obliged to add window panes to the concrete structure as part of its deal to enter the DPRK telecommunications sector in 2008.
While Orascom was suspected of having 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, telling NK News that “market entry is not currently possible”.
DPRK officials previously claimed the building would eventually contain the country’s premier restaurants, hotel accommodation, apartments, and business facilities.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News