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South Korea’s ode to the future

The world’s first robot theme park doesn’t look like much. In fact, it doesn’t look like anything. But this barren 100-acre plot outside Seoul is set to be transformed into Robot Land, a $700 million Shangri-la for techno-geeks and coaster buffs.

“South Korea has made great advances in becoming a leader in theme parks,” says Jae-Hong Chun, the project’s CEO, at his office a few miles from the site. “Robot Land would like to be a symbolic figure in the theme park sector.”

Chun guesses the finished park will attract about 3 million visitors a year. He envisions a Robot Land logo high on a nearby hill—à la the Hollywood sign—and a 300-foot-tall robo-coaster flinging riders around at eyeball-flattening speeds. There are plans for robot cabarets, robot boxing, robot animals, robot waiters. And, of course, many robot thrill rides.

“We’ve taken futuristic fantasy and merged it with 21st-century robotic technology,” Chun says. “This is a space-age mechanical nirvana mixed with fun-at-the-fair, showcasing the country’s robotic prowess.”

Such enthusiasm is harder to embrace back at the site. A few surveyors tromp the exposed red-tinged soil, preparing the way for the heavy machinery that’s supposed to move in by year’s end. Since the park was announced a couple of years back, the opening date has changed three times. It now stands at 2016, with a “soft opening” in 2014.

Chun adds that Robot Land will include a center for R&D, attracting engineers who will “create the next round of effective thinking machines”— which has to be a good thing. After all, you don’t want to have little Timmy look up at you and say, “Robotic giraffes? That is so 2010!” —CINDY-LOU DALE

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