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S. Korea ready to support Asia's second-largest theme park: minister

South Korea's finance minister said Thursday that the government will spare no effort for the completion of a multi-billion-dollar project to build Asia's second-largest theme park in the country.

South Korean retail giant Shinsegae is set to break ground for the 4.57 trillion-won ($3.8 billion) project to build a theme park in Hwaseong, about 40 kilometers southwest of Seoul, in 2021, with an initial opening in 2026 and the full opening in 2031.

The project on a 4.2-square-kilometer plot of land -- slightly larger than Central Park in New York -- also involves the construction of five hotels, an 18-hole golf course and three shopping malls, including a premium outlet.


Shinsegae Property, a real estate unit of Shinsegae, has a 90 percent stake in the project and the rest is held by Shinsegae Engineering & Construction.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Shinsegae could directly hire about 15,000 people and the project could generate about 70.6 trillion won for the economy.

The investment "could give a big boost" to the South Korean economy, Hong said in a ceremony at the site of the theme park.

Hong said the theme park would attract South Korean and foreign tourists at a time when Asia's fourth-largest economy is pushing to further boost the tourism industry by capitalizing on K-pop.

K-pop -- which mostly features choreographed singing and dancing by boy or girl groups -- has gained ground in not only Asia but Latin America, Europe and the United States in recent years.

K-pop and the broader Korean Wave have resonated with young people around the world, burnishing South Korea's image as a cool country, home to K-pop phenomenon BTS and "Gangnam Style," South Korean rapper Psy's 2012 mega-hit song.

South Korea plans to connect the theme park to Yeouido -- South Korea's equivalent to New York's Wall Street -- by rail before 2026, which would cut travel time to about 30 to 40 minutes.

The proposed theme park would be Asia's second-largest after Shanghai Disneyland.

The theme park project has had a troubled history, floundering in 2012 and 2017. (Yonhap)