Twenty-three years after its original scheduled completion date, leaked photos of North Korea's Ryugyong Hotel show a desolate concrete interior that could mean—at this pace—another couple decades before it's the gleaming star North Korea claimed it would be. The images, released by a Beijing-based travel agency, are a glance inside a building that until now was a 1,000-foot enigma. The outside is impressive-looking: a ginormous glassy pyramid that juts out of an otherwise demure Pyongyang skyline. But the inside? Nothing but open air and streaky concrete.
The story goes that in 1987 North Korea hoped to flaunt its wealth and power—this was the Cold War, after all—by surpassing Singapore's Westin Stamford Hotel as the tallest, and thus most impressive, hotel in the world. (Hmm... Building a massive skyscraper to assert economic power, sounds vaguely familiar, right?) Anyway, had construction actually wrapped up by its 1989 deadline, North Korea would have claimed the superlative easily. The 105th floor is 1,081 feet above the ground, easily besting the 741-foot Stamford. But the fall of the Soviet Union meant budgets dried up and the project lay stagnant for 16 years. Meanwhile, in 2009, the 1,093-foot Rose Tower in Dubai opened, swiping the appellation of tallest in the world. Though construction on the Ryugyong Hotel began again in 2008, these photos make it pretty clear the project will blow its 2012 deadline.
Here's a look at the interior: