South Korea is committed to building not one, but two robot theme parks. Besides the Incheon Robot Land on the West coast, there’s also Masan Robot Land on the South East coast, envisioned as a perfect blend of Masan’s natural coastal beauty and high-tech robots. Recently 5 private investors and the city planning council got together to discuss funding for the project, with the government putting up 266,000,000,000 KRW ($229,000,000 USD) of the 700,000,000,000 KRW ($603,000,000 USD) expected total. The plan being ironed out should provide a seamless schedule linking the government and private investor’s build phases. Of course private investors expect the government to stick its neck out first, especially given the economic downturn. One of the key areas of concern is planning and expanding existing transportation networks in the area, including a new bridge which won’t be completed until 2018, and a 14km highway which should be ready by 2014.
Another issue is the friction developing between the planned projects, with Incheon City reportedly feeling like Masan City may steal precious tourist dollars away from their own theme park. However, Masan City officials don’t see any conflict with the Incheon project and said the two parks can co-exist peacefully since Incheon’s project focuses on service robots while Masan’s will focus on industrial robots, health care robots, and underwater robots. Officials also stated that interest should be high since other countries aren’t planning such extravagant projects.
There are a few problems here. A casual observer may question the need for two incredibly expensive projects which share such similar themes, especially with the risk of these sorts of things losing steam and becoming tourist traps. And while South Korea has maintained a steady pace of robotics development as one of its economic growth engines, one wonders if Korean robots such as Tiro (pictured above) will be enough. While KAIST and KIST have made strides in recent years, Japanese robots such as Honda’s ASIMO or Toyota’s robot band Concero would certainly help to spur interest. However, the idea of Japanese robots exhibiting seems unlikely given the rival nations’ rocky on-again off-again relationship.