Movie Giant, Universal Studios to Build Theme Park in South Korea
Source:SEOUL, South Korea — Universal Parks & Resorts and a local partner signed an agreement Tuesday aimed at establishing a Universal Studios theme park in South Korea that they want to see up and running in 2012.
"What we are hoping to do is to bring in a world class attraction not only for the Korean people but to draw tourism to this country," Frank P. Stanek, president of USKOR & Associates Co., Universal's South Korean partner, said at a press conference, citing the attraction of possible visitors from nearby China.
Other than the proposed date for opening the park, other details were vague, including how much the project might eventually cost. No site has been decided and financing remains in the planning stage, officials said.
"We are in the process of evaluating our options," said Stanek, a former Walt Disney Co. executive involved in setting up Disney them parks in the United States, Japan and France.
He said that officials hoped to decide on a location by the end of this year.
Universal Parks & Resorts, a division of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, operates Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and Hollywood, California, in the United States, as well as in Osaka, Japan.
The parks include attractions based on Universal films including "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and "King Kong," as well as movies made by other studios such as "Spiderman" and "Shrek."
Universal Parks & Resorts Chairman and CEO Thomas L. Williams said South Korea's economic development, the concentration of half its almost 50 million population in the Seoul area and South Korean's familiarity with American cinema were positive factors behind the decision to bring a theme park to the country.
"We want to put you into your favorite scene from your favorite movie," he said, referring to attractions at Universal's other theme parks based on the films of Universal Studios.
In a press release, USKOR and Universal Parks & Resorts said that a facility in South Korea could potentially exceed the size of Universal Studios Hollywood or Universal Studios Japan.
Officials also said a them park would also draw on elements of South Korean cinema, which has developed an international reputation, especially in Asia.
"We want to be part of the Korean Wave," Williams said, referring to the popularity of South Korean culture and cinema in the region.
Williams said that the important thing at this stage was to be open and transparent and let the South Korean people know what the companies aim to do.
"We want to have an open transparent process by which first off the public in Korea ... that they all understand that we're committed to Korea for the long haul," he said.
USKOR's Stanek said he is confident that a park in South Korea would serve as a powerful draw for tourists from nearby China. But Williams said that for now Universal has no plans for a theme park there.
USKOR also said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with South Korea's Posco Engineering & Construction Co., a unit of Posco, the world's third-largest steelmaker, to join the consortium it is organizing to invest in the park.
Universal Parks & Resorts is developing Universal Studios parks in Singapore and Dubai.