Hotel Haegumgang, a floating hotel in North Korea
The Haegumgang Hotel is the world’s first floating hotel. After a 14,000 km journey through Singapore, Australia and Vietnam, it is currently docked on the east coast of North Korea.
A floating hotel on the great Barrier Reef
The Hotel was a project of Australian entrepreneur Doug Tarca to accommodate tourists on the Great Barrier Reef. It was built in Singapore, then towed 5,000 km to dock off the coast of Townsville on the John Brewer Reef. The floating structure is a world premiere, located halfway between the cruise ship and the hotel, the “floatel” has an anchoring system like an oil platform. The seven-story hotel had approximately 200 rooms, restaurants, bars, discos, a heliport and a floating pier structure that allowed access to a tennis court. The John Brewer Floating Hotel opened in 1988 and allowed to be in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef without hypothetically degrading it. In reality the ecological disaster was immense, besides the damage to the natural species, large quantities of coral had to be removed to moor the hotel. Ironically enough, a cyclone delayed the opening of the hotel during the inauguration ceremony. Many damages were caused, the electricity was cut, the pipeline was damaged, the underwater observatory sank and the guest boat was destroyed. Even though the famous Four Seasons Hotel Company was operating the hotel and tourism on the Great Bareer Reef was growing, the hotel faced many constraints, including financial insolvency.
Less than a year later the hotel closed and the floating hotel was sold to another company in Vietnam. After a second long sea voyage, the now renowned Saigon Floating Hotel opened its doors in Ho Chi Minh City. Its original vocation changed, it was not moored in a bay but along a dock and it became a popular nightlife venue that met with success for about ten years. However, new financial difficulties forced the owners to eventually sell the floating hotel.
The Haegumgang hotel, a unique tourist experience
In 1997, North Korea bought the hotel and moved it to the tourist area of Mount Kumgang, near the DMZ border with South Korea. Mount Kumgang is a special tourist area. Located in North Korea, the tourism managed and operated by Hyundai has been open to South Koreans since 1998, when the Haegumgang Hotel opened its doors. The hotel is a part of the tourism tour and its special location has made it a symbol of the beginning of north-south cooperation. The hotel also served as an official venue for meetings between families separated by the Korean War (1950-1953) which led to the division of the two countries. However, in 2008, the tourist experience was closed a decade after its opening, when a South Korean tourist was shot in the park. Following an official visit in 2019 by the North Korean president, the Kumgang seaside resort is to be restructured. The Haegumgang hotel, dilapidated and suffering from its years of neglect, sees its future threatened, according to Kim Jong Un it does not reflect a modern architecture with national character.