Kim Jong Un orders remodeling of major hotels in Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently ordered sections of several hotels in Pyongyang to be remodeled by the end of 2021, Daily NK has learned. 

Specifically, Kim ordered that hotels for foreign visitors be rebuilt in a modern way to conform with world standards. The order seems to suggest that the country is preparing to opening its borders in the “post-coronavirus era” as part of efforts to earn foreign currency. 

A military source told the Daily NK on Sunday that Kim handed down the order to the command of the Seventh General Department, a military engineering unit, on Oct. 5.

Specifically, North Korean authorities ordered the unit to rebuild the basement restaurant and revolving observatory restaurant of the Koryo Hotel Pyongyang; the hall and 80 guest rooms of the Pothonggang Hotel; the revolving observatory restaurant, basement bowling alley and arcade of the Yanggakdo International Hotel; 30 bedrooms of the Sosan Hotel; and shops in the Pyongyang Hotel.

The order called for all the reconstruction projects to be completed by the “end of 2021.” This seems to suggest that the country’s leadership believes the COVID-19 pandemic will end next year. 

The source explained that the Workers’ Party has an “unchanging” policy to keep promoting the tourism industry and attracting tourists to the country as a way to secure funds for the party along with foreign currency. 

The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. / Image: BRJ Inc., Creative Commons, Flickr

In short, the authorities wish to highlight North Korea’s image as a “normal country” by bringing several hotels in Pyongyang up to world standards. Meanwhile, they aim to create an opportunity for the country to “break through” its economic troubles by using its image as a  “COVID-19-free” nation to attract tourists. 

Kim’s latest order hints that the authorities may also be trying to use international tourism to acquire funds needed for the “five-year national economic development plan” to be presented during the Eighth Party Congress this coming January.

The Seventh General Department’s leadership has decided to mobilize the 25th Brigade, which has unspecified experience in construction projects overseas, for the reconstruction efforts. The unit is expected to start the remodeling of the hotels today (Oct. 13). 

National agencies, including the Cabinet, have already ordered that materials for the reconstruction projects should be “fully provided.”

Some in the country have expressed concern that efforts to rebuild sections of the hotels will run into difficulties, according to the source. Given that the construction of the Pyongyang General Hospital, the Samjiyon modernization project, and the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourism Zone project have also slowed down due to funding, material and labor issues, they reportedly feel that the hotel reconstruction projects will face similar issues.

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