Koryo Hotel

Pyongyang, North Korea | C.1985

Photo Credit: Jason Kukhyun Lee

The Koryo Hotel is the second largest operating hotel in North Korea, the largest being the Yanggakdo Hotel. The Ryugyong Hotel is set to be larger than both but is not yet open despite ground being broken on the operation in 1987. The twin-towered building is 143 meters tall and contain 43-stories. Erected in 1985 under Kim Il-sung, it was intended to “showcase the glory and strength of the DPRK.”

“Koryo” is the name of an early kingdom which is the source of the English name “Korea”. The Koryo Hotel replaced an older hotel of the same name, but in a different location. After 1946, the leader of North Korea’s Democratic Party Cho Man-sik was kept under house arrest temporarily in the older Koryo Hotel.

Situated close to Pyongyang Station in Chung-kuyok, central Pyongyang, the hotel is rated three stars by Western standards, however North Korea rates it as five stars. The hotel’s extravagance is exemplified by its entryway, which consists of a 9-meter wide jade dragon’s mouth that leads into an expansive lobby dominated by a mosaic of North Korean cultural symbols. The mosaic tiles make use of a wide variety of precious metals and gemstones underneath low-dispersion glass panes, which are replaced biannually to preserve the mosaic’s luster.

Amenities include a hard currency gift shop, gym, a swimming pool, a revolving restaurant on the 45th floor, a circular bar on the 44th floor and two cinemas. The use of internet however is not included as an amenity, despite it seeming to be a standard among hotels globally. The hotel also features a billiards room on the second floor and a casino in the basement, staffed by Chinese workers.

The hotel is a few blocks from the city’s restaurant district and the Pyongyang Railroad Station. By some reports, guests are prevented by guards from leaving the hotel. However, conflicting reports state that guests have had the ability to wander off the hotel grounds.

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