It is North Korea's empty and embarrassingly visable project, the futuristic but failed Ryugyong Hotel that juts skyward in the centre of the capital Pyongyang.

Started under the reign of current leader Kim Jong-un's grandfather, Kim il-Sung, it is a prominent reminder of the regime's disastrous economy.

The concrete tomb that is the Ryugyong, aka the 'hotel of doom', which has never been finished. Picture / Koryo Tours
The concrete tomb that is the Ryugyong, aka the 'hotel of doom', which has never been finished. Picture / Koryo Tours

Australian student and alleged "spy" Alek Sigley's last photos posted on Twitter before he was arrested and detained by North Korean authorities were of the Ryugyong.

It has been speculated Mr Sigley's last North Korean tweet got under the skin of the grandson who has neglected what was meant to be a triumphant edifice to the Fatherland's "Eternal President".

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At 330m tall soaring above the Pyongyang skyline, the Ryugyong attracts nicknames such as "phantom hotel" and "hotel of doom". The Google reviews would scandalise most North Koreans.

A typical review on Google. Photo / Google
A typical review on Google. Photo / Google

What was meant to be the pride of North Korea's founding father could now be the shame of his grandson.

Despite several attempts to finish it — glass panels were added to the exterior in 2011, making it look like a cross between a pyramid and a spaceship — inside it remains an eerie concrete ghost tower.

Photographs of the inside show vast, barren rooms with stairs, verandas and pylons made from massive pieces of cast concrete.

The photographs, published by the online site NK News, reveal the scale of the ghostly interior.

Meant to be a showpiece of North Korea's "premier restaurants, hotel accommodation, apartments, and business facilities", it was once feted to house up to 7665 rooms.

But despite lights seen shining inside the 105-storey tower in late 2016, the hotel remains a symbol of its country's deficiencies.

Construction on the Ryugyong — which means "capital of willows", an ancient name for Pyongyang itself — began in 1987.

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Kim Il-sung, to whom grandson Kim Jong-un bears a close resemblance, was approaching the end of his life at the time.

Massive cast concrete floors and pillars inside the doomed Ryugyong in central Pyongyang. Photo / Koryo Tours
Massive cast concrete floors and pillars inside the doomed Ryugyong in central Pyongyang. Photo / Koryo Tours

Kim Il-sung had created the Democratic People's Republic of Korea during the post World War II Soviet occupation of North Korea and prior to the Korean War of the early 1950s.

But at the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, and North Korea's subsequent economic crash and famine, construction on the building ceased.

When Kim Il-sung died in 1994, son Kim Jong-il inherited his father's near-absolute control over the country as Supreme Leader.

Work on the Ryugyong restarted in 2008, and in 2011 glass panels were added to the outside, giving the building its futuristic look.

Inside the tower of the hotel that has been under construction for 32 years, delayed by famine, economic ruin and the fall of the Soviet empire. Photo / Koryo Tours
Inside the tower of the hotel that has been under construction for 32 years, delayed by famine, economic ruin and the fall of the Soviet empire. Photo / Koryo Tours

Kim Jong-il died in December 2011, and as the country went into national mourning, work on the hotel again ceased.

The Ryugyong is next to Pyongyang University, where Mr Sigley was studying before his detention.

More importantly, it is right by the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Memorial, North Korea's national military museum, which is a display of its fighting prowess over arch enemy the US and the South Korean puppet state.

One of the museum's exhibits on the Potong River is the US Navy spy ship, the USS Pueblo, captured by North Korea in 1968.

Satellite images of the Ryugyong have detected work happening on and off in the last five years.

In December 2016, lights were seen shining inside the tower.

Last year an LED display was fitted to one side of the structure, and propaganda videos and light shows are regularly played.

The Guinness Book of Records describes the Ryugyong hotel as the world's tallest empty building.

If it is ever finished, the Ryugyong will have a restaurant on the top with "amazing views of Pyongyang soviet architecture and misery", NK News reported.