North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered workmen to finish building the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, which has been empty for 20 years. It is alternatively known as the "hotel of doom", the "phantom hotel", and the "worst building in the history of mankind".

While Kim exploits his country's newfound nuclear capabilities to earn respect abroad, he is hoping that completing the much delayed infrastructure project in the North Korean capital will boost his popularity at home.

The 105-storey hotel is even shaped a bit like a rocket. It was started by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and was planned to be the tallest hotel in the world. However in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the money ran out.

The empty husk has towered over the city ever since, in spite of several proposals to complete the job over the years in the cash-strapped communist nation. A 2008 article in Esquire magazine concluded that the unused skyscraper was the worst piece of architecture in human history.

In July, rumours surfaced that work might finally be underway. These appear to have been corroborated by tourists given a recent tour of the city.

German Till Mosler recently got back from Pyongyang. He said: "During my stay I realised some work activity around the entrance hall and surroundings. It seems the area around the huge building will be prepared.

"Also our Korean guides told us that there might be plans to open some parts of the building for public or offices. But not the whole building so far as they know," he added, as reported by the Mirror.

North Korea
North Korea's 105-storey 'Hotel of Doom'

Completing the Ryugyong would be a major domestic achievement for Kim, succeeding where both his grandfather and father Kim Jong-Il failed. It would help him to stamp some authority on his fledgling leadership, which could run for decades if he rules into old age.

Perhaps the biggest risk to Kim's premiership – and global security – is the increasingly volatile brinksmanship reverberating back and forth between himself and US president Donald Trump with regard to the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Today, the US and South Korea kicked off a major joint naval exercise on coast of the Korean peninsula, which included so-called "decapitation" operations, practsing the targeted assassination of Kim himself.

Ryugyong Hotel show North Koreans how good they have it

North Korea expert Markus Bell, from the University of Sheffield, said completing the hotel had huge symbolic importance for Kim.

He commented: "The Ryugyong hotel is part of a broader development push by the young leader, along with several other projects, including constructing new apartment blocks in the capital, a new airport, and a ski resort.

hotel of Doom
The hotel of Doom in a picture taken 10 years ago. the surrounding area has developed but the hotel is still empty (Reuters) Reuters

"It's part of Kim's effort to demonstrate to the people that things are improving under his leadership. The hotel is likely to be of particular importance to Kim because construction started under his grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

"Finishing construction would further connect him to his grandfather's leadership. Most North Koreans I've spoken with over the years remember Kim Il-sung fondly."

But Bell noted that, in reality, the eyesore was unlikely to benefit ordinary citizens, adding: "As with many of these projects, it's unlikely that the average North Korean will ever step foot inside the Ryugyong, let alone stay there.

"This is a project that will only benefit the elites of North Korea. As such, the money, time and manpower that's been invested on this project could have been used in far more beneficial ways."