SEOUL, South Korea — The 105-story, pyramid-shaped hotel that has stood over North Korea's capital city like a mountain for more than 20 years just might be on the verge of opening for the first time.

Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel will "partially, probably" open in the middle of next year, Reto Wittwer, CEO of international hotel operator Kempinski AG, said Thursday at a forum in Seoul.

Kempinski will manage the hotel, which Wittwer said will open with shops, offices, ballrooms, restaurants and 150 rooms.

The enormous hotel has been a source of fascination and ridicule for the outside world and an oversized embarrassment for North Korea's authoritarian regime.

North Korea began building the Ryugyong in the 1980s but stopped when funding ran out in the 1990s. Exterior construction resumed in 2009.

Various reports in recent years said the hotel was preparing to finally open. In September, a Beijing-based tour agency was allowed to peek inside and released pictures of the bare concrete lobby.

Wittwer said he first saw a picture of the hotel many years ago and thought then that it could eventually make a lot of money.

He said Cairo-based Orascom Telecom is funding the construction. The firm launched a mobile network in North Korea in 2008.

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  • Inside The Pyramid

    This photo released by Koryo Group shows visitors touring the top floor of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. After years of standing unfinished, construction on the exterior of the massive hotel resumed three years ago.

  • The Ryugyong Lobby

    A visitor stands on the ground floor of the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. Thanks to its bizarre architecture and massive size, the hotel has attracted a lot of interest over the years.

  • A Sneak Peek

    Beijing-based Koryo Tours got a sneak peek inside the hotel, which has been an off-limits construction site and remains a source of fascination for the outside world.

  • An Imposing Hotel

    The pyramid-shaped hotel looms over downtown Pyongyang.

  • Downtown

    Symmetry. (Sam Gellman Photography)

  • Monotony

    Rows of apartments in Pyongyang. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Empty Streets

    Big streets, few people. An afternoon in Kaesong. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Street Scenes

    A kid plays in front of a tram in Pyongyang. The statue of Kim Il Sung is in the background. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Some Things Remain The Same

    Kids being kids, in downtown Pyongyang. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Fun

    A soldier rides a bumper car at a Fun Fare at night in Pyongyang. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Landscaped

    A 3-second exposure of the motion at the 100,000 person Mass Games performance. The background is made up of 30,000 kids holding sign boards. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Almost Holy

    Women re-enact the birth of Eternal Leader Kim Il Sung at the Mass Games performance. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Human Pixels

    Kids hold signs creating an image of a North Korean flag. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Scale

    Rows of performers. Mass Games. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Intricate Loveliness

    Women dancers performing at the Mass Games. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Pawns

    Soldiers watching the Mass games. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • The Master

    A tribute to Kim Il Sung at the Mass Games. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Adults in North Korea are required to wear a pin with the image of Kim Il Sung. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • On Duty

    A North Korean soldier at the De-militarization zone (DMZ) in Kaesong. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Doctrine

    A young boy dressed in his pioneer uniform. Taken at the Pyongyang Fun Fare. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)

  • Generations

    A man with his son in a park in Pyongyang. (<a href="http://www.samgellman.com" target="_hplink">Sam Gellman Photography</a>)