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Ryugyong Hotel

The garish, spaceship-like Ryugyong Hotel is the world’s tallest unoccupied building.

© Benoit Cappronnier/Moment Open/Getty Images

North Korea, which has long been ruled by a totalitarian regime with a paranoid hostility toward outsiders, seems like the least likely place on Earth to build a luxury tourist resort. Yet in 1987, then-dictator Kim Il-Sung broke ground for exactly such a project, the 105-story Ryungyong Hotel, apparently in an effort to top bitter rival South Korea's triumphant hosting of the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Construction of the three-winged glass-and-concrete triangular tower stalled in the early 1990s with the collapse of North Korea's major economic patron, the Soviet Union, and the $750 million structure has languished in unfinished condition ever since, outlasting the reigns of both Kim Il-Sung and his son, Kim Jong-Il.

In 2012, a German hotel firm announced that it would be managing the property, leading to speculation that it might finally open for business, but that turned out to be a false alarm. In fact, a reporter in 2012 found the interior was still a shell of bare concrete with a tangle of wires. But the garish, spaceship-like edifice does give North Korean capital Pyongyang an eye-catching landmark, and the dubious distinction of having the world's tallest unoccupied building [sources: CNN Travel Staff, Strochlic].

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