SEOUL – The world’s 10th Lego-themed amusement park is set for its grand opening in South Korea, with all opening day tickets sold out in advance, 11 years after developers launched the idea of turning a lake island into a tourist attraction with full support from local governments. Construction was delayed due to opposition from civic groups and disputes over how to finance it.
Legoland in Chuncheon, about 75 kilometers (46.6 miles) northeast of Seoul, is set to officially open on Children’s Day, which falls on May 5. It includes around 40 rides and seven groups built with Lego bricks. A 154-room Lego-themed hotel is available for family visitors. Legoland Korea Resort (LLKR) has implemented a pre-booking system to reduce delays and traffic jams.
Legoland, a chain of family theme parks, opened the first park in Denmark in 1968, followed by other parks in Japan and other countries. The parks are known for a model village that includes models of world landmarks and Lego brick scenes.
The first phase of the Legoland theme park project in Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon province which shares the border with North Korea, was completed with 300 billion won ($237 million). An additional 220 billion won would be invested in the second phase.
The Legoland project dates back to 2011 when Merlin Entertainments, the UK operator of Legoland, teamed up with its South Korean partner, LL Development, to build a Lego hotel, water park, shopping malls and attractions on an area of 1.32 million square meters. , but construction was suspended after 1,400 Bronze Age remains, including 101 dolmens, were discovered in 2014, prompting activists to intervene.
In 2018, Merlin signed a new agreement with Gangwon Province to invest 220 billion won ($194 million) including 80 billion won from LL Development. The resumption of construction was conditionally approved on the premise of establishing a museum or historical park to preserve historical remains, but the promise was not kept.
Provincial government officials have envisioned a broad roadmap to make the region one of South Korea’s top tourist destinations by attracting private investment to build shopping malls, convention centers and tourism-related facilities. Legoland expects around 1.5 million visitors a year.
Civic groups have filed complaints with state attorneys against local governments for breach of trust, abuse of authority and dereliction of duty, arguing that taxpayer dollars have been wasted on small returns.
Traffic congestion is another concern as there is only one bridge leading to the theme park. In anticipation of an increase in tourism demand, Chuncheon would expand tourism facilities and infrastructure such as a second cross bridge to minimize inconvenience.
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