Global Theme Park Boom
By HoJin Yoon
Japan has one and so does Singapore. Malaysia does, too. But it’s a wonder why Asia’s fourth largest economy has yet to see a major foreign-licensed global amusement park.
While Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios Singapore and Legoland Malaysia draw scores of visitors annually, in Korea it’s huge theme parks like Everland and Lotte – run by the country’s largest conglomerates or the city – that draw thrill seekers. But with an increasing number of tourists and growing local demand for better and more sophisticated theme parks, the Korean government has strived, for the past few years, to host foreign-licensed amusement parks. Talks have been underway since 2008 with many foreign companies about constructing amusement parks in Korea, including a Universal Studios Resort (Hwasung), MGM Studios (Jeju), Paramount Movie Park (Incheon), Legoland (Chuncheon), Marvel City (Incheon) and Ferrari World (Paju).
With the global economic crises of recent years, many of the projects in discussions had been nullified or delayed. But with the economy slowly recovering, and with Korea’s new incoming government administration passionate about reviving the regional economy, a number of these projects are likely to break ground this year. We will look briefly here at three of them.
1. Universal Studios Korea Resort ( Hwasung)
First announced in 2007, Universal Studios Korea Resort was designed to be Asia’s largest Universal Studios theme park and the world’s fifth Universal Studios. Experts projected it would generate more than $3.2 billion in foreign investment and create 60,000 new jobs. It would boast not only a large scale theme park but also a super cool water park, multiplex shopping center, hotels and a golf course, not to mention Steven Spielberg as its creative consultant. Once scheduled to open in 2012, the project is now slated for construction from 2013 to 2016.
2. Legoland (Chuncheon)
Legoland@’s 7th amusement park and the world’s largest Lego microcosm to date is to be built in Korea’s northern city of Chuncheon, in Gangwon Province. Merlin Entertainments Group, a British operator of world-famous theme parks, including Legoland, said it will invest US$100 million for the construction of Korea’s Legoland to be completed by 2015. Construction was initially slated to begin last year but was delayed due to issues involving the formation of a special purpose company (SPC) and other minor matters. But Gangwon Province officials and associates are confident the SPC will be established in March. Once a consensus is received from the people of Chuncheon, construction on the 1.3 million ㎡Lego theme park will begin in the first half of this year. Constructed costs are expected to total $500 million.
3. Ferrari World (Paju)
The world’s second Formula 1-themed amusement park will be in Paju by 2016. The Italian supercar manufacturer Ferrari and the city of Paju agreed on the more-than $1 billion project last year. It will be similar to the first Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, including not only 40 types of rides but also Ferrari-racing experiences. The park is expected to attract 30,000 new residents into Paju and create thousands of jobs. The city is currently hosting investment conferences to establish an SPC for the project. Construction is slated to begin in October.
Negotiations for other global amusement parks in Korea, including MGM Studios, Paramount Movie Park and Marvel City, are also underway. This boom in global theme parks shows that Korea is an ideal investment destination. Having drawn 10 million tourists last year and with a Korean Wave phenomenon that only continues to swell, the forecast for foreign direct investment is bright. Of course, we face strong competition from neighbors including Japan and China. But by cultivating the tourism & service industry, Korea can draw its share of tourists as well as foreign investors.
A favorite of everyone from grannies to babies, amusement parks are an essential part of modern leisure. With Korea expected to have more than five global amusement parks by 2017, fans like me may no longer have to wait hours in line for three minutes of fun. My top picks for the future? The Ferrari roller coaster, Lego carousel and Shrek’s 4-D Adventure.
Ho Jin Yoon is an intern on Invest Korea’s (IK) Investment Public Relations Team. He manages IK’s Facebook, blog and Twitter and supports annual company events. An International Studies major at Hanyang University, he has a great interest in public relations and marketing.