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Geneva company scraps North Korea hotel plans

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Geneva company scraps North Korea hotel plans
Geneva-based Kempinski bails from massive Ryugyong Hotel project. Photo: AFP
18:25 CEST+02:00
The Swiss luxury hotel chain Kempinski said on Tuesday that it was dropping plans to open a huge pyramid-shaped hotel that has stood half-built for decades in North Korea amid escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.

"Kempinski Hotels confirms that Key International, its joint venture partner in China with Beijing Tourism Group (BTG), had initial discussions to operate a hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea," Brigitte Hohl Taylor, a spokeswoman told AFP in an email.

"However no agreement has been signed since market entry is not currently possible," she said, adding in a phone conversation that the discussions had been halted.

In November, the Geneva-based luxury hotel chain said it hoped to open Pyongyang's 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel — a monolithic concrete shell dubbed the "Hotel of Doom" by international media that has been repeatedly delayed — in July or August this year.

But on Sunday, the South China Morning Post reported that the Swiss company had decided to ditch the project amid the increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the North Korean regime.

The Korean peninsula has been locked in a cycle of escalating military tensions since the North's third nuclear test in February, which drew toughened UN sanctions.

Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011, reportedly ordered construction of the Ryugyong hotel in 1987, initially with skills and capital from a French company.

In 2008, the project, which has stood as a symbol of the economic problems plaguing the impoverished country, was named the 'Worst Building in the History of Mankind' by US men's lifestyle magazine Esquire.

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