Gloomy future of Legoland Korea

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Gloomy future of Legoland Korea

The author is an S Team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Lego is the most successful toy brand of the 20th century. Wherever you go in the world, the centerpiece of toy stores is Lego. People have enjoyed playing with the blocks for generations. The powerful intellectual property that transcends generations are used in various of games and films. The latest craze of Minecraft and Roblox would not have been possible without Lego.

Expectations were high when it was announced Legoland — the place of dreams and fantasy of Lego manias — would come to Korea, especially after several failed attempts to host global theme parks such as Disneyland. The construction process was not easy. Backlash was also strong, as the site was leased free for 100 years though prehistoric artifacts were discovered there. As a result, residents and stakeholders were not pursued properly and construction cost controversy ensued. The opening was postponed seven times until it officially opened in May.

Legoland returned to the center of controversy again as the 205 billion won ($144.5 million) worth of asset-backed commercial papers (ABCP) guaranteed by the Gangwon municipal government has been defaulted. While the Gangwon governor changed his stance and said he would pay it back, uncertainty has already spread. Financial authorities have even stepped up, but chaos remains. The task of regaining lost trust will inevitably take time.

Legoland finally opened, but it does not seem to have good business. It is quickly cooling down after its popularity sparked in the beginning. The actual number of visitors is far lower than the projected 2 million a year. It is understandable. Who is willing to pay the 50,000 won admission fee per person, expensive parking fee and accommodation fees more expensive than five-star hotels in Seoul?

Its management is also questionable. Since its opening, the rides have stopped five times. Legoland sold annual passes but did not inform visitors about the closing schedule. Complaints on online communities say, “Not much to eat” or “Only attractions, no place to rest.” All these factors helped lower the rate of revisit. No theme park can survive without visitors coming back over and over.

The name “LEGO” is an abbreviation of Danish words “leg godt,” or “play well.” Legoland advertises itself as a place that “provides fun and happy experiences to children experiencing a theme park for the first time in their lives.” Children would have fun, but no child can go to Chuncheon alone. If the theme park does not have any consideration for their parents, the future of Legoland is evident.
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