Go to contents

[Op-Ed] Universal Theme Park in Korea

Posted January. 21, 2010 07:54,   


Walt Disney thought of the idea of Disneyland while visiting a public park with his two daughters. After creating the blueprint of Disneyland to be built in Anaheim, California, he headed for New York in 1953 to raise funds. His idea was rejected by the networks CBS and NBC, but was accepted by ABC. He and ABC went on to open the world’s first theme park in 1955. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had hoped to go to Disneyland when he visited the U.S. four years later. He could not, however, after the U.S. State Department raised safety issues. Undeniably, Disneyland is one of the major symbols representing the U.S.

Ten years after Disneyland was established, a Korean dreamed of building a large-scale amusement park in Korea. Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chull bought nearly 15 square kilometers of land in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, in the 1960s to develop a natural environment. Nursery trees of the best quality were planted and cultivated. A research center and pigsties were installed to improve pig breeds. Lee ignored criticism that his group was trying to fuel real estate speculation. The result of his drive and tenacity was Korea’s first theme park Yongin Farm Land (now Samsung Everland). The resort has emerged as a popular tourist destination frequented by Koreans and also foreigners, such as Chinese.

Universal Studios will build a theme park and resort in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, featuring a ride based on the movie “Jurassic Park,” water sports facilities, golf course and shopping mall. Korea will thus get Universal’s fifth theme park worldwide, following those in Los Angeles; Orlando, Florida; Osaka, Japan; and Singapore. The Hwaseong park will require an investment of at least three trillion won (2.6 billion U.S. dollars). Gyeonggi Province also aims to nurture the soon-to-be built theme park as Korea’s best.

The project has undergone many twists and turns before getting the green light. The township of Songsan in Hwaseong County, the site of the park, is part of tideland created when the artificial Lake Shihwa was completed in 1994. The province also faced strong resistance from environmental groups after initially announcing the project. Had Gyeonggi Gov. Kim Moon-su not persuaded Korean companies into investing in the venture and sought to connect Seoul to the theme park with subways and roads, the plan might have never been adopted. After completion, the Universal theme park will draw many tourists, boost domestic industries such as tourism and lodging, and create jobs. The project is a prime example of successful cooperation between a provincial government and corporations.

Editorial Writer Park Yeong-kyun (parkyk@donga.com)