Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Universal Studios Korea in Hwaseong

Universal Parks and Resorts will open its sixth and biggest park in Songsan Green City (Songsan-myeon, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do), just opposite China and South of Incheon, its international airport closer than ever since the opening of the new bridge.

As usually the case in such projects, the theme park is only part of a huge real estate project, complete with golf, hotels, outlets, and condos. But 4.3 M square meters is really massive. There will be a water park and a CityWalk similar to the Universal Studios Hollywood concept. Steven Spielberg will apply his own label, very much the Jack Nicklaus way (his version of "War of the Worlds" has a spot in USH as well).

Construction starts in March and the park should be inaugurated in 2014, two years behind the initial schedule (announced in 2007), and one after the Marvel Entertainment theme park planned in Busan (see "
Beefing up Korea").

Along with its partners Lotte Group (26.7% via Lotte Asset Development) and POSCO Engineering & Construction (24.4%), Universal's Korean unit USKOR & Associates Co. added a dozen investors to the financing pool. The project is expected to cost USD 2.7 bn and the initial capital to reach USD 400 M. Not necessarily direct foreign investment, but a potential magnet for the whole region.

Highway 15 is bound to bring the bulk of the traffic from Incheon and Seoul, but the Sihwa sea dike may see part of the flow reach Songsan via Ansan and Daebudo. Southwestern Gyeonggi-do tourism should get a big boost, so let's hope seashores and nice areas will be preserved. Local authorities should watch for over development, and preserve the identity of the area beyond the park to really make a difference.

It's good for business to open such a franchise, but it's better if visitors can tell this difference from Hollywood, Orlando, Osaka, Dubai or Singapore.

Seoul Village 2010

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