Universal Studios project stalled

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Universal Studios project stalled

The Korean Water Resources Corporation (K-water) said it failed to sign a contract with Universal Studios Korea to build an amusement park in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, by their late-December deadline.

K-water said it will wait few more weeks to hear whether USK is still interested in the project.

USK is the preferred bidder to construct a theme park and it was supposed to submit finalized construction plans by the end of last month.

“USK had to come up with a finalized version of a contract for us to sign but they just didn’t do it,” said a representative at K-water. “We don’t think it is about the details on amount of money for the project but think it is due to the internal issues within USK. We will wait two more weeks for them to submit the contract.”

After two weeks, the plan to build a Universal Studios amusement park will be canceled.

“This is a big project where the amusement park is just a part of it,” the K-water representative said. “We will find another bidder who is interested in the project. One thing I am worrying about is that the project is delayed.”

The government and private sectors plan to build a large international theme park in Hwaseong with a water park, hotel, shopping mall and golf course by 2020. K-water projected that 7.5 million visitors would visit the theme park in Hwaseong. The site for the theme park project is 4.21 million square meters, or 145 percent bigger than Yeouido in Seoul. The project is estimated to cost nearly 5 trillion won ($4.1 trillion).

Some local media outlets have reported that USK hasn’t submitted contracts for the project due to the political scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil, who allegedly forced companies to donate money for government-run cultural projects.

The Universal Studios project was previously canceled in 2012, but was restarted as President Park proposed to build an amusement park.

“My heart feels really heavy after reading such media reports,” a representative at K-water said. “Don’t you think the project has already been under the construction if Choi was really involved in it? I can say for sure that Choi or the political scandal has nothing to do with this project.”

There have been questions about the feasibility of the project, whose aim wasn’t only Koreans but also Chinese tourists.

Universal Studios has four parks in Osaka, Japan; Singapore; Orlando, Florida; and Los Angeles. Future parks have been announced in Beijing and Moscow.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]
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