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Posted at 03:46 PM ET, 02/09/2012

North Korean super-sized hotel, tourism experiment may signal slight opening up to outsiders

The death of Kim Jong Il and ascension of his son Kim Jong Eun put a spotlight on secretive North Korea as it mourned its Dear Leader and welcomed another.

The changes in the country highlighted something else: indications that the reclusive country may be becoming more open to outsiders.

Tuesday, Post correspondent Chico Harlan reports that the super-sized Ryugyong Hotel, a project that began in 1987 and for years was airbrushed out of official photos, is finally set to open in the capital of Pyongyang.

Harlan introduces the towering structure like so:

North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel ranks among the world’s most remarkable — and mockable — buildings. It’s taller than New York’s Chrysler Building and wider at its base than an average city block. Constructed almost entirely of concrete, it looks like a rocket ship, casting a jagged shadow over Pyongyang’s gray vistas.

Citing the Yonhap news agency in Seoul, Harlan writes that the building is expected to open sometime this spring. It opening date was supposed to be 23 years ago. The Ryugyong Hotel will initially house offices and later be open for visiting tourists.

Tourism in North Korea? Yes, indeed. The government let in an initial group of 70 Chinese tourists and investors in November, the Post’s Keith Richburg reported.

Richburg writes:

The government’s focus, for now, is on the Mount Kumgang tourist resort near the demilitarized zone on the east coast. The park — with its abundant peaks, red pine trees, waterfalls, Buddhist temples, hiking trails and crystal-clear rivers — was being jointly developed with South Korea’s Hyundai Asan company, a rare symbol of cooperation on the divided Korean Peninsula.

Richburg offers a glimpse of daily life in Pyongyang with this video he recorded:

For more on life in North Korea, see the BBC’s “Life in the North Korean bubble,” or watch the National Geographic Explorer episode in which correspondent Lisa Lin goes undercover in the country:

If you’re interested in venturing to the hermit kingdom, Time offers four snarky tips for travelers.

More world news coverage:

- North Korea’s super-sized hotel set to open

- Iran increasingly controls its Internet

- China sees ‘trust deficit’ ahead of Xi Jinping visit

- Read more headlines from around the world

By Greg Linch  |  03:46 PM ET, 02/09/2012

Tags:  World

 
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