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Korea to build magic kingdom for robots

South Korea is getting ready to build a robot theme park that features reconstructions of robot-oriented movie sets, a robot arm ride, and even robot cashiers and performers.

Robot Land theme park
An artist's rendering shows the Incheon Robot Land theme park, expected to be completed in 2013, with some parts opening the year prior.
Robot Land

We're not sure if this portends a robot Mickey Mouse and Snow White, but Korea plans to build what is believed to be the world's first robot theme park, the Korea Herald reports.

The robot magic kingdom will be part of a giant residential and industrial complex called Robot Land in Incheon, one of South Korea's largest cities and a major transportation hub.

According to the Robot Land Web site, the theme park will feature all manner of robot entertainment, including exhibitions of robot characters from films and cartoons; reconstructions of robot-oriented movie sets like "Minority Report," "I,Robot," and "Matrix"; a robotic-arm ride; an aquarium where visitors can watch and manipulate robotic fish; and even droid cashiers and performers.

A theme park shopping area will likely feature robots operating as cashiers. Robot Land

After a bidding process lasting several years, the Korean government has just authorized Incheon to build the park, which will cost 784.5 billion won (about $687 million), with $596 million coming from private investors, about $46 million from the central government, and about $46 million from the local government, according to the Korea Herald.

Construction is set to begin this year and is expected to be completed in 2013, with some parts of the facility opening in 2012, officials from Korea's Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.

Besides rides and Robocop look-alikes, the roughly 110-acre Incheon Robot Land will house residential complexes, office buildings, a Seoul National University robotics research center, a stadium for robotics competitions, and robot-themed shopping centers. The entire Robot Land is expected to attract 2.8 million visitors annually, boosting the local economy by creating some 18,000 related jobs in the theme park alone, ministry officials said.

The robotics industry in Korea, considered a leader in the field, was valued at an estimated $770 million in 2009, according to Telecoms Korea, up about 10 percent from 2008. The country has spawned a number of notable bots, namely Hubo, a smiling, blinking humanoid with the face of Albert Einstein. Others include the Hoya mini firefighter helper bot and Mahru-Z, a housemaid bot that does laundry.