Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk
Everybody’s talking about overtures to Pyongyang. Informal talks, secret talks, talks about talks – then, somewhere in everyone’s pet solution, comes the killer line: Pyongyang has to “freeze” its missile-and-nuclear program before real talking begins.
It’s unlikely Kim Jong-Un will “freeze” anything, but here’s an idea. Remember that enormous triangular-shaped building that dominates the Pyongyang skyline? That’s right, the Ryugyong Hotel, 105 stories, 330 meters high, never opened, a monument to failure.
The Ryugyong is celebrating an anniversary of sorts. Well, maybe not a celebration, just a rueful reminder of high hopes and wild dreams sacrificed on the altar of dictatorial fantasies. Yes, it was 30 years ago this year that construction began. The job was to have been done in two years, but then came the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and its east European satellites ― and the end of Soviet support of the North Korean economy.
But wait. Isn’t Donald Trump one of the world’s best known real estate tycoons? And wasn’t he world famous, long before his presidency, for sprawling towers that bear his name? Wouldn’t Trump have the resources to turn the Ryugyong into the ultimate Trump Tower – a monument not only to the late Kim Jong-Il, who ordered construction of what he saw as fitting symbolism of his power, but also to Trump, looking for any “option” to prevent Korean War II.
Trump probably wouldn’t get to see his name flashing in lights atop the pinnacle of this particular Trump Tower. The Ryugyong would retain its original name even though by now the word is a reminder not of national success but of the stupidity of a vainglorious leader who passed on his vanity to his son and heir, Kim Jong-Un.
Surely, though, Trump could offer a deal whereby “Trump” would be all over the place, in restaurants and nightclubs, even on a casino like the one in the basement of the Yanggakdo Hotel, a holding place for tourists on a sheltered island in the Daedong River. Trump himself could attend the opening, standing beside Kim Jong-Un, the man with whom he once said he’d like to have a hamburger.
There might be some technical hazards beyond those of fixing elevators that are out of line, cracking walls, a leaking sewer system and a shaky foundation. Trump would also have to circumvent sanctions imposed on North Korea by the UN for all those nuclear and missile tests, and he would need to consider the conflict-of-interest inherent in investing in such a massive project while still in office.
Not to worry. These obstacles should not be a problem for a man who thinks, as president, he doesn’t have to abide by the rules. Can’t he always say, “Look, I can forget about sanctions when our national interest is at stake.”
As for Trump’s personal self-interest, he should have no problem delegating his kids, and maybe son-in-law Jared Kushner’s sister, with the formidable task of making the Ryugyong the greatest of Trump towers. They’d love to do the honors in anticipation of the profits from a facility that would rank as the world’s third tallest hotel after a couple of those monstrosities in Dubai.
Sure, the nasty media would be writing exposés all over the place on one prolonged scandal after another. New York Times columnists would go into overdrive decrying the awfulness of Trump. But blathering aside, what could they do to stop his family from profiting from the deal – that is, provided North Korea parted with a percentage of the earnings?
All Trump would have to say, in the face of media yip-yapping, would be, “This is amazing, this is the greatest hotel on the planet.”
Ok, there would still be that nagging problem that gets in the way of any agreement with the North. Would Kim Jong-Un suspend, much less abandon, his precious nukes and missiles while Trump made the Ryugyong the centerpiece of Pyongyang business and social life, not to mention an attraction for hordes of free-spending Chinese?
Trump’s people would have to agree, “No preconditions,” before getting the contract Trump himself would count on good-will flowing from his generosity as the best guarantee that Kim would never fire one of those missiles at a real live target.
But suppose Kim persisted in testing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to the U.S.? Trump could then retaliate ― preemptively ― by ordering cruise missile strikes against the whole pathetic edifice. Even as a heap of rubble, the Ryugyong would be his greatest legacy.
Donald Kirk has visited Pyongyang five times, each time seeing the Ryugyong looming above the capital. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org