Written by By Staff Writer
(CNN) — The rooms are close to the water with views of fountains and palm trees.
There are even signs pointing out Michelin-starred restaurants on the other side of the water.
With air-conditioning, hot showers and a massive living room space, it doesn’t feel far away.
But the $50 million South Korean hotel, based in Dandong, on the North Korean border, isn’t what you would expect to find in the socialist paradise.
And it’s not why the three-storey building is set for demolition on Sunday — it was supposed to be for business.
A humble start
The Korean Peninsula Tourism Organization (KPTO) started developing the hotel in 2000 as a commercial venture to promote tourism between the two Koreas.
Eight years later, construction began on what had initially been a 122-room hotel.
It soon earned the nickname “the floating hotel” for the structure’s unique location.
Crowned with two trademark Soviet-style white columns and topped by a majestic, concrete dome, the North Korean-style hotel is a tribute to the country’s industrial revolution.
The KPTO is considering building a waterpark in Dandong next to the old building. Aitor Ugarte/CNN
Special guest star
The hotel was never intended for private use and was never meant to be an attraction.
On the contrary, the building’s builders, Dandong Waterfront and Culture Park Management and Visitors Bureau, intended it to be used as a “beautification project,” to bring in foreign tourists.
But the project hit a snag in 2009 when the overall cost to construct the “floating hotel” jumped from $50 million to $200 million.
During the economic downturn a year later, the project’s financial debt ran up to $300 million.
After running out of funding in 2013, the board of directors decided to rebuild the hotel as a major theme park and recreational venue — to be ready by the end of this year.
But the revolving hotel’s history was too valuable.
An environmentally-friendly floating hotel looks set to be razed in North Korea.
According to the KPTO, the board of directors “did not want to delay [the redevelopment] further considering [the] poor economic situation in the region.”
With that, workers with the construction company are dismantling the hotel.
Amit Yoran, director of KPTO, admits the “project never worked as planned.”
Now the idea of expanding to other North Korean cities like Wonsan and Chongjin is on the cards.
To help revive tourism, the park will refurbish and open a pumice pool with artificial waves and an artificial lake.
The lakeside park will also include an aquarium, a mini-field hockey hall, a skate park and a water park.
And another attraction: The hotel will be dismantled and the cabins removed to a South Korean shipyard for demolition and shipping.
But preparations have been complicated by previous restrictions on transport and the environmental impact of the demolition.
“We had to limit the number of trucks and other vehicles with large loads,” says Yoran.
“The tower is covered in timber and there are many small beds.”