Kim Jong-un Criticizes World's First Floating Hotel

Kim provides his deputies with instruction at the Sea Kumgang Hotel (Courtesy state-owned media)

Published Oct 23, 2019 6:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ordered the removal of a tourist facility at Mt. Kumgang, including the world's first floating hotel. 

The 200-room Sea Kumgang Hotel (Haekumgang) is a permanently-moored passenger barge, and it was installed by South Korean entrepreneurs during the rule of Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il. Its association with South Korea prompted the younger Kim to order its removal, but it was built for a much different purpose - and it happens to be the world's first modern floatel. 

The Sea Kumgang Hotel was originally built in Singapore in 1987 as the John Brewer. An Australian entrepreneur, Doug Tarca, ordered it with the goal of creating a floating resort at the Great Barrier Reef. A heavy-lift ship delivered the John Brewer to the intended destination, but Tarca's resort business only lasted two years as a going concern. The John Brewer was sold into service in Saigon, where it provided accommodations from 1989 the 1997. It was then sold to Hyundai Asan, which was developing the Mt. Kumgang tourist facility. After a refit in Singapore, it was moved to Kunsang Port and reopened under its current name. 

Courtesy state-owned media

The Mt. Kumgang accommodations facility ultimately fell victim to regional tensions. In 2008, a South Korean visitor was shot and killed by a North Korean guard, leading to the site's closure to visitors from the south. Pyongyang seized the facility from its South Korean operators in 2011, and it has been largely vacant since. 

In a recent visit to Mt. Kumgang, Kim Jong-un surveyed the South Korean facilities at the site - including the floatel - and declared them an affront to national pride. The buildings, he declared, are "just a hotchpotch" resembling "makeshift tents" or an "isolation ward." Kim called for "removing all the unpleasant-looking facilities of [South Korean origin]" and replacing them with modern North Korean buildings.