Universal Studios resort in SKorea to open in 2014

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Developers of a Universal Studios theme park and resort in South Korea said Tuesday the project is slated to open in early 2014 after being delayed by the global financial crisis.

Universal Studios Korea Resort, billed as the largest such Universal project in Asia, was originally announced in May 2007 amid hopes it would be up and running in 2012.

Kim Moon-soo, governor of Gyeonggi province, where the resort is set to be built, blamed the worldwide financial meltdown for the delay, but said the large-scale project is back on track. Construction is scheduled to commence at the beginning of next year, according to a release.

“Our Universal Studios in Korea is bigger than all the other studios combined,” Kim said at a press event, referring to theme parks already operating in Orlando, Florida and Hollywood, California in the United States, Osaka, Japan and another slated to open soon in Singapore.

“This will be a remarkable landmark for tourism in Korea,” he said.

A total of 15 partners are participating in the development, including South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group and builder Posco E&C. They signed a framework agreement Tuesday to raise capital for the 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion) project expected to attract 15 million visitors a year in South Korea and from abroad.

Developers also expect the project to create at least 40,000 jobs.

The resort is to be built on a site in the city of Hwaseong, located south of Seoul and also close to its main international airport in Incheon. Nearly half of South Korea’s population of about 50 million people are said to live within an hour’s drive.

Developers have also placed great hope on attracting international visitors from increasingly affluent Asia, particularly nearby China.

Universal Parks & Resorts CEO Thomas L. Williams reiterated that theme Tuesday.

“The number of Asian international tourists is significant and growing,” Williams said.

Williams called the success of the project, which he said will include a water park, shopping center, a golf course and renowned American director Steven Spielberg as creative consultant, a “sure thing.”

Universal Parks & Resorts is a division of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal.