The government said yesterday it authorized Incheon to build the world`s first robot theme park, aiming to boost the regional economy and advance the nation`s robotics industry.
The robot theme park in the Incheon Free Economic Zone is to be officially designated today as Robot Land development area by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy under the robotics development law, ministry officials said.
The robot theme park, which the government says is the first of its kind in the world, will feature a number of attractions such as entertainment facilities, exhibition halls, research and development centers, education buildings and industrial support facilities, officials said.
The Finance Ministry and Knowledge Economy Ministry picked Incheon and Masan in South Gyeongsang Province as the final bidders for the construction of robot theme parks in 2007. The ministries carried out further investigations last year to check the legitimacy of the investment.
The Masan park needs more time to draw up detailed plans, as the government is still reviewing environmental impact studies and other administrative processes, officials said.
The Incheon robot theme park will cost 784.5 billion won ($562.3 million), of which 680.5 billion won comes from private investors, 52 billion won from the central government, and the other 52 billion won from the local government, according to ministry officials. The construction will begin in 2010 and be completed by 2013, they said.
However, part of the Incheon park will be open to the public around 2012, the government said.
The government already allocated 4 billion won in the 2009 budget to support designing public facilities in the Incheon and Masan parks.
The robot theme parks are expected to generate 2.8 trillion won in industrial output and create 18,000 related jobs, boosting the regional economy, ministry officials said.
Korea has been eyeing the robotics industry as a future growth engine, as robots have been widely used in the nation`s key industries including automobiles, flat panel displays, semiconductors and shipbuilding industries.
The government is now putting more emphasis on developing service robots that help clean homes and provide entertainment.
"Although there are numerous theme parks around the world, Korea would be the first to operate a robot-themed park," said an official at the Knowledge Economy Ministry.
Korea ranks fifth in terms of revenue in the world`s existing manufacturing robotics market, which is being led by Japan and the United States, the official said.
Kim Hong-seok, chief research engineer at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, said the service robot market is expected to be worth between $17 billion and $50 billion by 2012, in a recent report.
"About 70 percent of the market is expected to be taken up by SMEs and venture companies, and the industry`s growth is projected to give rise to business opportunities in a wide range of areas including robot and parts production, software development and product sales," Kim said.
He added that the robotics industry will resolve the issue of labor shortage caused by population aging.
By Kim Yoon-mi