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Huge N. Korean hotel begun in 1980s might open soon

  • In this Oct. 26, 2011, photo, the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel towers above Pyongyang, North Korea. International hotel operator Kempinski AG said on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, that it will manage the pyramid-shaped hotel, which is expected to open next year with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)In this Oct. 26, 2011, photo, the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel towers above Pyongyang, North Korea. International hotel operator Kempinski AG said on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, that it will manage the pyramid-shaped hotel, which is expected to open next year with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
  • In this Sept. 23, 2012, photo released by Koryo Group, visitors tour the top floor of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. After years of standing unfinished, construction on the exterior of the massive hotel resumed three years ago, but the hotel has not yet opened to the public. This photo, taken by the Beijing-based Koryo Tours, shows that the interior remains unfinished. (AP Photo/Koryo Group) In this Sept. 23, 2012, photo released by Koryo Group, visitors tour the top floor of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. After years of standing unfinished, construction on the exterior of the massive hotel resumed three years ago, but the hotel has not yet opened to the public. This photo, taken by the Beijing-based Koryo Tours, shows that the interior remains unfinished. (AP Photo/Koryo Group)
  • In this Sept. 23, 2012, photo released by Koryo Group on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, the pyramid-shaped, 105-story Ryugyong Hotel stands in Pyongyang, North Korea. A foreign tour agency said the interior of the massive hotel in the North Korea capital remains unfinished. Beijing-based Koryo Tours got a sneak peek inside the hotel, which has been an off-limits construction site and remains a source of fascination for the outside world. (AP Photo/Koryo Group) In this Sept. 23, 2012, photo released by Koryo Group on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, the pyramid-shaped, 105-story Ryugyong Hotel stands in Pyongyang, North Korea. A foreign tour agency said the interior of the massive hotel in the North Korea capital remains unfinished. Beijing-based Koryo Tours got a sneak peek inside the hotel, which has been an off-limits construction site and remains a source of fascination for the outside world. (AP Photo/Koryo Group)
  • In this photo from Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, the 105-story, pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel, still under construction, is seen in the distance from a street in Pyongyang, North Korea. After years of delay, construction has resumed on the hotel with some windowpanes installed on the facade. (AP Photo/Jean H. Lee)In this photo from Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, the 105-story, pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel, still under construction, is seen in the distance from a street in Pyongyang, North Korea. After years of delay, construction has resumed on the hotel with some windowpanes installed on the facade. (AP Photo/Jean H. Lee)
  • In this April 1, 2012, photo, the sun is reflected from the top of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel, which remains under construction in Pyongyang, North Korea. International hotel operator Kempinski AG said on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, that it will manage the pyramid-shaped hotel, which is expected to open next year with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)In this April 1, 2012, photo, the sun is reflected from the top of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel, which remains under construction in Pyongyang, North Korea. International hotel operator Kempinski AG said on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, that it will manage the pyramid-shaped hotel, which is expected to open next year with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
  • A cyclist rides along the banks of the River Taedong in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Friday, June 1, 2007. The pyramid in the background is the Ryogyong Hotel, on which construction began in 1987 but was abandoned unfinished in 1991. (AP Photo/Michael Fischer)A cyclist rides along the banks of the River Taedong in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Friday, June 1, 2007. The pyramid in the background is the Ryogyong Hotel, on which construction began in 1987 but was abandoned unfinished in 1991. (AP Photo/Michael Fischer)
  • In this Sept. 23, 2012, photo released by Koryo Group on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, the pyramid-shaped, 105-story Ryugyong Hotel stands in Pyongyang, North Korea. A foreign tour agency said the interior of the massive hotel in the North Korean capital remains unfinished. Beijing-based Koryo Tours got a sneak peek inside the hotel, which has been an off-limits construction site and remains a source of fascination for the outside world. (AP Photo/Koryo Group)In this Sept. 23, 2012, photo released by Koryo Group on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, the pyramid-shaped, 105-story Ryugyong Hotel stands in Pyongyang, North Korea. A foreign tour agency said the interior of the massive hotel in the North Korean capital remains unfinished. Beijing-based Koryo Tours got a sneak peek inside the hotel, which has been an off-limits construction site and remains a source of fascination for the outside world. (AP Photo/Koryo Group)
  • A North Korean woman walks past the construction site of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Aug. 22, 1990. Work on the 3,000-room pyramidal building, begun almost a decade earlier, was expected to be completed in 1992 after financial problems. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)A North Korean woman walks past the construction site of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Aug. 22, 1990. Work on the 3,000-room pyramidal building, begun almost a decade earlier, was expected to be completed in 1992 after financial problems. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
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SEOUL (AP) — The 105-story, pyramid-shaped hotel that has stood over North Korea's capital city like a mountain for more than 20 years just might be on the verge of opening for the first time.

Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel will "partially, probably" open in the middle of next year, Reto Wittwer, CEO of international hotel operator Kempinski AG, said Thursday at a forum in Seoul.

Kempinski will manage the hotel, which Mr. Wittwer said will open with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms.

The enormous hotel has been a source of fascination and ridicule for the outside world — and an oversize embarrassment for North Korea's authoritarian regime.

North Korea began building the Ryugyong in the 1980s but stopped when funding ran out in the 1990s. Exterior construction resumed in 2009.

There have been various reports in recent years that the hotel was preparing to finally open. In September, a Beijing-based tour agency was allowed to peek inside and released pictures of the bare concrete lobby.

Mr. Wittwer said he first saw a picture of the hotel many years ago and thought then that it could eventually make a lot of money.

He said Cairo-based Orascom Telecom is funding the construction. The firm launched a mobile network in North Korea in 2008.

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