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November 19, 2019
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World-first floating hotel in a shambles as Kim Jong-un seeks renovations

SEOUL, South Korea: After a 14,000-kilometre journey that saw it sit for more than a decade in North Korean waters, Townsville’s former Barrier Reef Floating Resort — the world’s first floating hotel — is now facing an uncertain future.

State media said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the removal of all “backward” and “shabby” facilities at the Mount Kumgang tourist resort, the current resting place of the 30-year-old floating hotel.

The Mount Kumgang resort, which was developed in the 1990s by South Korean companies, was once seen as an important symbol of cooperation between the two Koreas.

But during a recent inspection, Kim made it clear he was not pleased by what he saw at the resort, likening the facilities to “makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area”.

“They are not only very backward in terms of architecture but look so shabby as they are not properly cared for,” he said.

“The buildings are just a hotchpotch with no national character at all.”

Kim called for the “unpleasant-looking facilities” to be removed and rebuilt to “meet [North Korea’s] own sentiment and aesthetic taste”.

But the Barrier Reef Floating Resort — which was renamed Hotel Haegumgang after its sale to a South Korean company, and its subsequent journey to the North — has developed something of a cult following in Australia.

The Barrier Reef Floating Resort was built in Singapore and towed more than 5,000 kilometres to Townsville, where it opened in 1988 as the world’s first floating hotel.

Its facilities included tennis courts, swimming pools, nightclubs, bars and restaurants — however, it was only open for business for about a year, before being sold to a Vietnamese company and moved to Ho Chi Minh City.

The hotel stayed open for nearly a decade in Vietnam before being sold again to a South Korean company which moved it to the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea.

A report on the hotel generated interest from all over Australia, with people passing on memorabilia and stories of visiting and working on the hotel.