World’s tallest empty hotel lit up with North Korean propaganda

For several hours each night, the building that doesn’t have electricity inside becomes the backdrop of a massive light show in which more than 100,000 LEDs flash images of famous statues and monuments, bursts of fireworks, party symbols, and political slogans. (AP)
Updated 30 December 2018

World’s tallest empty hotel lit up with North Korean propaganda

  • The four-minute main program begins with an animation showing the history of the nation, followed by homages to ideals like self-reliance and revolutionary spirit
  • The Ryugyong is a big part of the legacy of second-generation leader Kim Jong Il, current leader Kim Jong Un’s late father

PYONGYANG, North Korea: The 105-story Ryugyong Hotel has long been a blot on the Pyongyang skyline. The world’s tallest unoccupied building has towered over North Korea’s capital since 1987, a grand but empty pyramid entirely dark except for the lone aircraft warning light at its top.
Outsiders saw the unfinished building as the epitome of failure, while people inside the country took care to rarely mention it at all.
That is, until light designer Kim Yong Il made the building once again the talk of the town.
In a brilliant flip of the script, the Ryugyong has been reborn as a symbol of pride and North Korean ingenuity.
For several hours each night, the building that doesn’t have electricity inside becomes the backdrop of a massive light show in which more than 100,000 LEDs flash images of famous statues and monuments, bursts of fireworks, party symbols and political slogans.
The Ryugyong is still unfinished. There’s no public date when, or if, it will host its elusive first guest. Questions remain over whether the glass-and-concrete hotel is structurally sound. And North Korea’s electricity supply is limited as-is.
But never mind all that.
“I feel really proud,” Kim, the vice department director of the Korean Light Decoration Center, told The Associated Press in a recent interview at the foot of the hotel. “I made this magnificent design for this gigantic building and when people see it, it makes them feel good. It makes me proud to work as a designer.”
The display was first lit in April to mark the birthday of the country’s “eternal president,” Kim Il Sung.
Designer Kim said the preparations took about five months. He was in charge of the designing and programming the light display, which took him two months. Another specialist was responsible for the physical setup and electrical wiring.
Giant LED displays has been used around the world for many years — and on an even bigger building. Japanese designer Yusuke Murakami and a London-based company collaborated in 2016 on an LED animation on Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest tower.
The 330-meter (1,083-feet) Ryugyong tower has three distinct sides. The main show is displayed on the front, while simpler designs light up the other two. For a conical section at the very top, Kim created the image of the red, white and blue North Korean flag waving in the wind. It is 40 meters tall and visible from any direction.
The four-minute main program begins with an animation showing the history of the nation, followed by homages to ideals like self-reliance and revolutionary spirit and a procession of 17 political slogans such as “single-minded unity,” “harmonious whole” and “100 battles, 100 victories.”
The lights are connected to a computerized controlling system about the size of a household DVD player.
“The whole program can be stored on an SD card and put into the controller,” Kim said. “We can do the diagnostics on a laptop.”
The Ryugyong is a big part of the legacy of second-generation leader Kim Jong Il, current leader Kim Jong Un’s late father.
He ordered it built as part Pyongyang’s preparations for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, which it hosted in 1989 as a kind of counterpoint to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Ryugyong was supposed to be the world’s tallest hotel, surpassing another in Singapore that was built by a South Korean company, but the building fell by the wayside as North Korea experienced a severe economic crash and famines in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union.
It languished in limbo until Egypt’s Orascom Group, which established the North’s cellphone system, helped fund the completion of its glassy exterior in 2011.
Like his father, Kim Jong Un has a penchant for ambitious building projects, including 82- and 70-story residences in the capital’s “Ryomyong,” or “dawn,” district that opened last year and a massive science and technology complex with a main building shaped like a giant atom.
“The goal of setting up this light screen is to give confidence and hope for the future to our people,” Kim, the designer, said as he watched people walking by in the light of his massive display. “The response has been great. The national flag at the top of the building is hundreds of meters high and everyone can see it. It fills them with pride and confidence in being a citizen, willing to work very hard.”
He declined to guess when the hotel itself might open.
“That’s not my field,” he laughed.
But he said there’s no plan to turn off the Ryugyong light show, though updates could be in the works.
“We could change the content,” he said. “The demands and aspirations of the people and the times change, so we can change the program to reflect that.”


Paris bans daytime jogging as virus deaths hit new high

Updated 43 min 43 sec ago

Paris bans daytime jogging as virus deaths hit new high

  • Starting Wednesday, Paris will enforce a ban on individual outdoor sports between the hours of 10:00 am and 07:00 pm
  • Officials worry that confinement violations could further burden hospitals already overflowing with COVID-19 patients

PARIS:  Paris officials announced Tuesday that they would ban daytime jogging to keep people from bending anti-coronavirus lockdown rules, after France recorded its biggest daily jump in the death toll from the outbreak.
Under nationwide stay-at-home orders that came into force on March 17, people can leave their homes only for essential purposes, which until now included a solo walk or run within a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) radius of home.
But amid a spell of sunny spring weather, large groups of Parisians were seen running, walking and congregating over the weekend, even as police stepped up patrols and issued fines for lockdown violations.
Starting Wednesday, Paris will enforce a ban on individual outdoor sports between the hours of 10:00 am and 07:00 pm.
Officials worry that confinement violations could further burden hospitals already overflowing with COVID-19 patients, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Monday urged municipal officials to toughen restrictions if necessary.
“Every excursion avoided aids the fight against the epidemic,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and police chief Didier Lallement said in a statement.
Also Tuesday, the Atlantic coastal resort city of Biarritz limited the period people can sit on benches or in other public areas to two minutes maximum, saying confinement meant that “dawdling is prohibited.”
Paris, Biarritz and other cities have already closed public parks and gardens as part of the nationwide lockdown that requires people to carry a document justifying any excursion from the home.
Those caught without the document risk a fine starting at €135 ($147).
In the north of France, the mayor of Marcq-en-Baroeul has made spitting in public, coughing or sneezing without covering one’s face, and throwing used masks and gloves in the street punishable by a fine of 68 euros.
The tougher rules came after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced Monday a record daily coronavirus death toll of 833 people in 24 hours.
“It is not over,” the minister said, urging people to “stay at home and continue this confinement effort.”
Like many other nations, France debated Tuesday the merits of encouraging, or compelling, people to wear face masks to prevent asymptomatic virus-carriers from passing it on to others.
Veran said Tuesday that it remained an “open question” that required further scientific investigation.
France’s Academy of Medicine, which advises the government on epidemics, has advocated mask-wearing as an aid in curbing the outbreak, but international bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) disagree.
But Hidalgo said in a radio interview Tuesday that she would not oblige face mask use for now, though she did encourage people to cover their faces in public.
France’s finance ministry, meanwhile, said dozens of companies have produced 3.9 million fabric masks for non-medical professional use in the past week, and will produce 6.6 million more in the days to come.
The country’s Order of Pharmacists and two labor unions urged the government, meanwhile, to allow pharmacies to sell “alternative” non-medical grade masks to members of the public as an added protection.
The WHO said Monday that asking the general public to wear face masks could be justified in areas where hand-washing and physical distancing were difficult, but warned that masks alone could not stop the pandemic.