Landing International’s multibillion dollar investment in the South Korean casino resort faces uncertainty as rows continue between Seoul and Beijing.
The 2.5 million square metre resort is located on Jeju Island off the coast of the Korean peninsula. Landing International bought the site in 2013 when the relationship between Beijing and Seoul was warmer.
The resort is set to become fully operational in 2019.
However the project has been shadowed by geopolitical problems. Just a month before the resort was set to open in March, Beijing expressed its opposition to South Korea’s plan to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in response to threats from the North Korean regime. This culminated in a ban preventing mainland tourist groups from visiting South Korea.
Jay Lee Poh Yee, Chief Operating Officer of Landing International, admitted the theme park will be bound to suffer from an extreme downturn in Chinese tourists. However he is not pessimistic reports the South China Morning Post.
“At least half of our visitors will be domestic-driven,” he said. He insisted the main strategic change is that “We don’t solely focus on China, but the regional markets from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan to Southeast Asia.”
Landing tested the market for the US $2.6 billion project in April, debuting 342 serviced flats. Planned facilities include a movie world in partnership with US studio Lionsgate. There will be a town featuring Korea’s YG entertainment artists including celebrity G-Dragon. Shinwa Theme Park has just held its official opening.
Jeju’s first Marriott hotel, which will house the casino, and a Four Seasons resort are under construction. The park has hired 1,300 staff and is expected to provide 5,000 jobs by the time it is fully operational.
Overall the scheme is seen as a major coup for Jeju tourism, which has set a target of 15 million tourists by 2018. “I think this project will change the face of Jeju,” said Lee Poh Yee. “There’s definitely a shortage of world-class theme parks.”
The Marriott hotel and casino are set to open by December 2017. However the loss of mainland group tours could have a large impact on the casino part of the equation. Korean nationals are prohibited from gambling in the country’s casinos with the sole exception of the remote Kangwon Land Casino.