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Globetrotting

News and notes from around the world

SEOUL

ROBOT CABARET, ANYONE?
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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