Korean city targets Chinese gamblers

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A CITY in South Korea is aiming to transform a small fishing island off the country’s west coast into a hub of tourism, shopping and gambling to rival Macau and Las Vegas.

Incheon city, 17 miles west of the capital Seoul, hopes to attract as much as $290bn (£180bn) in investment by 2030 to build casinos, hotels, race tracks, a marina and concert halls in its district of Yongyu-Muui.

Incheon hopes the tourism complex will lure the growing middle and upper class from China, who are spending more on leisure and travel, and tourists from Japan.

To increase its appeal to Chinese tourists, the new island will be named Eightcity and built in the shape of a figure 8, after the number considered lucky in China.

The 5.7 million passengers passing through Incheon International Airport every year will also be targeted, a head of the project developer said.

“It will become the world’s top city that has the creativity of Dubai, convention centres and casinos of Las Vegas and Macau, as well as the shopping centres and financial hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore,” said Park Seong-Hyun, vice chairman of Eightcity Co.

He said the firm had secured $2.8bn (£1.7bn) from South Korean investors and another $1bn (£620m) from the UK’s Sanbar Development Corporation, which will help get the project off the ground.

The initial investment will be used to compensate island residents early next year. Building infrastructure and reclaiming land will cost another $27bn (£16bn).

International hotel operator Kempinski AG and South Korea’s flag carrier Korean Air Lines are among the shareholders in the development business.

When completed, Incheon said the area will be three times larger than Macau at 30 square miles.

In the early 2000s, Yongyu-Muui district was designated as a free-economic zone, along with several of Incheon’s other districts, to boost foreign investment in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The Yongyu-Muui project first saw little progress partly because of the global financial crisis.