May 4, 2022
SEOUL – After 11 years of numerous obstacles and criticisms, the Lego blocks are finally stacked and Legoland Korea Resort is ready to open on Children’s Day.
However, historical artifacts found near the site and the surrounding areas — the source of opposition to the theme park in Chungcheon, Gangwon Province — remain neglected inside plastic greenhouses.
As Legoland Korea Resort’s Thursday grand opening nears, the amusement park is under fire once again for dragging its feet with establishing a separate park and exhibition hall dedicated to the artifacts, terms that Legoland’s developer, Gangwon Jungdo Developments Corp. (GJC), agreed to according to the conditional permits that were issued to build Legoland.
The Pan-citizens’ Countermeasure Committee, which has lobbied against the opening of Legoland, and other civic groups and artists, on Monday held a joint press conference near the theme park, condemning the Cultural Heritage Administration for neglecting the historical artifacts.
“The Legoland operation permit is now invalid as it has completely failed to meet the terms of the conditional use permit,” the committee said. The statement also accused the head of the CHA of dereliction of duty for condoning the “illegal opening” of Legoland.
Hundreds of stone artifacts, including Jiseokmyo Dolmen that date back at least 2,000 years and the Goguryeo-era Doldeotneol Tomb are currently wrapped in black plastic and stored inside greenhouses that are surrounded by a 2-meter-high fence.
The committee pointed out that Legoland was initially allowed to proceed with construction in the years 2014 and 2017, under the condition that the historical artifacts are protected and preserved by establishing a dedicated park and exhibition hall.
Gangwon Province and GJC, an investment arm of Gangwon Province, had proposed the conditions to the CHA.
In addition to the criticisms concerning the preservation of artifacts, the theme park had faced other problems since construction began in 2011. They include issues involving environmental destruction and allegations of unfair contracts and bribes.
Oh Dong-chul, chair of Chuncheon Civil Society Network, claimed that the 2017 settlement states that the park and exhibition hall also have to be ready on Legoland’s opening day, but “nothing has changed in how the relics are being stored.”
“Our groups have participated in multiple hunger strikes, including one in 2019. Over 150 billion won ($118 million) have been poured into the theme park. There is no reason to delay the establishment of the preservation park that had been planned since the early stage of Legoland construction,” Oh told The Korea Herald on Tuesday.
The central government-run CHA, however, shifted the blame on Gangwon Province and GJC’s failure to secure the necessary budget for the park and the exhibition hall.
The agency also denied there was any problems with the way in which the artifacts are being stored.
An official at the CHA’s artifacts excavation division told The Korea Herald that the stone artifacts that are wrapped in black plastic are safe since they have been exposed to the elements for centuries.
“The building permit (for the park) was issued last year and all designs have been completed. The construction will hopefully start in 2023, as soon as the budget issue is resolved, and it will just be a matter of time from then.” the official said.
“Out of the estimated project budget of 32.7 billion won, the GJC has spent 4 billion won in basic preparations for the preservation and installation of the artifacts and a dedicated park. There is around 28.7 billion won that still needs to be secured to make it happen,” a Legoland operations support team official from the Gangwon Provincial Office told The Korea Herald.
The official added that contrary to the CHA’s argument, under the current law on buried cultural heritage, Gangwon Province cannot directly provide money for the project. “We are working to support the project in ways other than directly giving funds,” the official said.
Multiple attempts by The Korea Herald to reach the official in charge at GJC failed.