Sometime this spring, though, according to the Yonhap news agency in Seoul, the Ryugyong Hotel will partially open — 23 years behind schedule. Initially, it might serve as an office complex, not a hotel, but eventually, travel agents say, the Ryugyong will open for tourists…

Architects routinely described the unfinished structure as among the world’s ugliest, and several years ago, Esquire magazine called it “the worst building in the history of mankind.” With neither the will to knock it down nor the money to complete it, North Korean authorities for years airbrushed it from some official photos of its skyline.

Officials have not disclosed details of the new plans for the hotel. But Cockerell mentioned a “common rumor in Pyongyang” that many of the middle floors will be left vacant, with the bottom used for hotel rooms and the top for restaurants.