Thibault Paquin (below) is the founder and principal of Celebrating Life Asia, an independent consultant and development company for the leisure & entertainment industry. He is also the managing director of iVenture Card Asia, which is operating attractions passes in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.
I read a few days ago about the opening of OneMount Goyang, supposedly housing Korea’s 3rd largest water park. I was intrigued and did some research. When I realized it was part of the greater Hallyu World (i.e. Korean Wave) project in Ilsan, near Seoul, I decided to go check it out and give you the real gist.
Hallyu World is located North-West of Seoul; it took me 1 hour by metro (line 3) from the city centre and a short walk from Juyeop station through a housing development to reach the site. This ambitious project from the local government (Gyeonggi-do) and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is adjacent to KINTEX, a 220, 000sqm exhibition centre opened in 2005. The project consists of a dozen of parcels, which have been tendered out for hotel, retail and leisure & entertainment developments.
So far only two developments have been completed: the MVL hotel by Daemyung (also the owner of Ocean World, Korea’s second largest water park) and OneMount Goyang. When I asked my Korean friends why only two I was told the current state of the economy is such that only construction/development companies – which both projects are – can afford to build these days.
So in an attempt to boost the development of Hallyu World (before the Korean wave crushes!), the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced they will give KWN 25 billion (US$22.2 million) in subsidy to the winner of a bid to build a 18, 000 seat arena dedicated to K-pop by the end of 2016. The government hopes this will bring renewed interest to Hallyu World and attract investors for other planned components such as the pop music museum, Hall of Fame and education facility for pop music.
So back to what’s there now. It looks like a large construction site, typical of a Korean new city (e.g. Songdo) with two big mushrooms: the 20-storey, 377-room five-star MVL hotel and OneMount Goyang.
Don’t expect anything of the scale of Everland or Vivaldi Park, OneMount Goyang is more like a regional mall (160, 000sqm) with a water park and snow park on top. It also features a huge fitness complex, where the PSY video of Gentle Man was shot: great marketing exercise! (see 3 storey driving range below)
I went on a week day and less than a month after opening so it was still pretty quiet although the metro was covered with ads for OneMount Goyang. The layout of the mall is quite nice with open-air shopping streets. I found the ticketing counter for the water park and snow park (see below) easily thanks to the very cool water rides sticking out of the building.
I paid KWN 18, 000 (US$16) for a ticket to the water park.
The press release says “the waterpark offers nine slides, 18 pools and beach pool with five different types of waves” but I could only really count 4 rides and a rather small wave pool. The water park is divided in two floors. The indoor one is reminiscent of Lotte World with similar decors, high ceilings, and a surrounding elevated pathway to watch people play in the different (mostly kids) pools. The outdoor floor is smaller and probably more dedicated to teenagers with a couple of thrill rides and a (very small) party pool for events and performances.
The water park makes good use of the building with rides sticking out and the lazy river surrounding the building, partly indoor partly outdoor.
Although of good quality (WhiteWater rides) and attended by friendly staff, OneMount Goyang does not strike me as one of the potential top 3 water parks in Korea and I can't see families from all over Seoul – even less so tourists – rushing through the doors. However as a regional mall I think the developer did a good job with a good F&B offering, plenty of space for kids to play and the ID Hair concept, which I thought was amazing: it must be the biggest open-style hair salon in the world.
So what do I take away from this little expedition to Hallyu World?
- Korea is good at announcing big attractions projects but they don’t always come true. What ever happened to Universal Studios Korea? Or Paramount Movie Park? These were all over the news a few years ago.
- When attractions do get built they are often by construction/development companies with little experience who tend to seek inspiration from (if not copy) existing ones – in this case from Lotte World.
- Innovation comes with passion and maybe Koreans are not (yet) passionate enough about leisure & entertainment – it is a serious society where education and career are parents’ top priorities – but Koreans are definitely passionate about their looks and this is maybe why I was much more impressed by the ID Hair concept (see image below) than I was by the water park I was initially going there for!
That being said, I have hopes that Hallyu World – because it is about pop culture, which Koreans are passionate about – will attract more innovation and unique concepts people will come from all over Seoul and from overseas to enjoy. So see you there in 2016 for a big K-pop concert and great attractions experiences!