|By Jason Garcia, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 19, 2010--The parent company of Universal Orlando announced Monday that it had completed an agreement with partners in South Korea to build a new Universal Studios theme park.
Universal Parks & Resorts said it expects to break ground on the 1,100-acre Universal Studios Korea resort early next year. It is expected to open in early 2014.
The $3 billion development, in South Korea's Gyeonggi province, will include a Universal Studios theme park, a CityWalk shopping-and-dining district, a water park, golf course, multiple hotels, condominiums and more.
"Universal Studios Korea shows our continuous commitment to growing our business in Asia," Tom Williams, chairman and chief executive of Universal Parks & Resorts, said in a prepared statement.
First announced in November 2007, Universal Studios Korea has taken longer than expected to get off the ground. Backers initially planned to open the resort in 2012, but progress was slowed by the collapse in late 2008 of credit markets worldwide.
To help kickstart the project, Universal recruited Lotte Group, a Japanese conglomerate that began as a chewing-gum company but has branched into fields ranging from tourism to finance to heavy chemicals. Lotte already operates an indoor theme park called LotteWorld in Seoul, South Korea.
Lotte will take a 26.7 percent stake in Universal Studios Korea, making it the project's largest shareholder. More than a dozen other businesses and governments are also partners.
Universal also said Monday it now has agreements with the South Korean government to extend highway and rail networks to serve its theme park. South Korean government officials say they expect construction to create more than 40,000 jobs.
Universal Parks & Resorts, a unit of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, has made overseas expansion a priority in recent years. Universal is scheduled to open a new theme park in Singapore in a matter of weeks. It would be the fourth resort in Universal's portfolio, joining properties in Orlando, California and Japan.
Universal has also said it still plans to open a park in Dubai by 2012, though many other projects in the region, which has been hit particularly hard by the global credit crunch, face substantial delays.
"Korea is a great business opportunity for Universal Parks & Resorts," Williams said. "We are excited to be working with an esteemed group of Korean corporations under the leadership of Lotte, and we are thankful for the strong support of the Korean government."
Jason Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5414.
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