An enormous pyramid-shaped hotel which has stood half-built for decades in North Korea's capital is on track to open its doors next year, a luxury international hotel chain has said.
Pyongyang's 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel, a monolithic concrete shell dubbed the "Hotel of Doom" by international media, has been repeatedly delayed and stands as a symbol of the economic problems plaguing the impoverished country.
Despite doubts that it would ever be completed, the head of Geneva-based hotel group Kempinski AG has said it plans a partial launch next year, South Korean media said.
Seoul's Korea JoongAng Daily quoted Kempinski chief executive Reto Wittwer as saying the group would open the hotel in July or August 2013, offering 150 rooms on the top floors of the building.
"It will become a multipurpose complex, with the three lowest floors used for the lobby, restaurants and a shopping centre, and the rest of the upper floors will be mostly used for offices," he said.
South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo also quoted Wittwer as saying the Kempinski group planned to open the hotel in the first half of next year.
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, who died last December, reportedly ordered construction of the hotel in 1987, with skills and capital from a French company.
In 2008 the project was named the 'Worst Building in the History of Mankind' by US men's lifestyle magazine Esquire.
Wittwer said that Cairo-based Orascom Telecom, which launched a mobile network in North Korea in 2008, has invested $180-million in the building's exterior, which has now been completed.
Orascom is now working on the interior, he added.
In September this year, Beijing-based company Koryo Tours, which organises trips to North Korea, was granted a rare glimpse inside the hotel.
Photos taken by the company and provided to AFP show a vast glass-covered lobby and atrium with tiers of bare concrete at its base, resembling a multi-storey car park.
The visit also revealed that the building features a ninety-fifth-floor viewing platform and plans for a banqueting hall.