By Lee Chi-dong
GOSEONG, South Korea, April 8 (Yonhap) -- "Jurassic World" has come back. Forget Hollywood this time! It's South Korea's turn.
Dinosaurs are loose in Goseong, a southern town about a five-hour drive from Seoul.
Steven Spielberg's computer graphics will have to give way to life-size replicas of dinosaurs, digital exhibits and interactive programs being played out at the Gyeongnam Goseong Dinosaur World Expo.
It kicked off a week ago at the seaside tourist site of Danghangpo, slated to last through June 12.
"It's better than expected, very satisfactory," Kim Myoung-hwa, a housewife from Seoul, said on a visit here with her family. "There are many things to see, play and also eat. I think it's worth coming down here for the kids."
Kim's 11-year-old daughter, Na-young, said her favorite thing was a hands-on experience of excavating dinosaur fossils and a 114-meter slide.
Indeed, the Goseong expo offers a variety of fun activities for families, connecting them with prehistoric life by use of state-of-the-art technology.
The species that roamed the Earth at least 6.5 million years ago have been brought back to life by videos made in 3-D, 4-D, 5-D and holograms.
"We enjoyed a 5-D film played on a huge 360-degree screen at the Dinosaur Footprint Fossil Hall," said Paolo Di-Vincenzo, an Italian working at a Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard on Geoje Island.
On a tour with his Korean wife and two daughters, he added they also liked the outdoor stegosaurus display made with 8,600 recycled Lipton cans that measures 8.5 meters long, 4 meters high and 2.5 meters wide.
Produced in cooperation with visiting Chinese technicians, it is designed to enhance public awareness of the importance of saving energy and protecting the environment.
Most of the other models on display are made of fibre-reinforced plastic, parts of which were delivered by truck and assembled here.
Di-Vincenzo said he would recommend the expo to his friends and colleagues.
He did not want to wait for another three years to let his kids enjoy the dinosaur world.
The festival began in 2006 and was held in 2009 and 2012. Goseong was supposed to host the next one in 2015, but it was postponed due to the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the country.
It's a rare great success as a regular event hosted by local authorities in South Korea. The previous one drew more than 1.5 million visitors, including 90,000 foreigners, according to organizers.
It's a good example for a local government to capitalize on such natural history.
Goseong, which has a population of around 50,000, is known for its trails of thousands of dinosaur footprint fossils, plus its Korean kiwi fruit, called Darae, and corn.
It's regarded as one of the top dinosaur sites in the world, along with Colorado in the U.S. and the west coast of Argentina.
In that sense, Goseong is quite lucky.
Dinosaurs are a universal topic, noted Ara Najarian, mayor of Glendale, California, which is a sister city of Goseong.
"The subject of dinosaurs grabbed the attention of audiences worldwide over the entire spectrum of age with the success of the major moving picture series 'Jurassic Park,'" he said in his congratulatory message at the festival opening.
"I believe the theme of dinosaurs is something that our cities can use to entertain and stimulate the imagination of residents in both cities," he said.
Goseong officials aim to draw 1.8 million visitors this year and make 7-8 billion won (US$6-7 million) in profits.
A fresh highlight is the magnificent nighttime show. This year's expo has the theme of "Dinosaur Opens the Future with a Beam of Hope."
At night, the entire venue is illuminated by tens of thousands of small and big LED light bulbs, coupled with a fantastic laser show.
"I came here with my family in 2012. This year's event is much better. There was no nighttime event like this at that time," Oh Soo-jin from Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, said, strolling through the Moonlight Garden with her boyfriend. "I plan to post my photos of it on my blog and SNS."
Oh added she thinks admission is a bit expensive, priced at 16,000 won (US$14) for an adult and 10,000 won for a child.
"The price is rather high, given some pavilions charge extra entrance fees," she said.
In order to attract more visitors, above all, Goseong needs to resolve the problem with public transportation and lodging.
There is no nearby airport or railway station, although the highway from Seoul is relatively well-paved.
It's a tall order to reach the venue by public transportation from Seoul or Gyeonggi Province, where about half of South Koreans live, let alone from foreign countries.
There are few good hotels in Goseong, tempting visitors to stay in Tongyeong, a popular tourist spot located some 40 km south, or in other areas.
Jason McCarthy, a Canadian who introduced himself as involved in a gas and oil business, took issue with the advertising.
"I did not know about this. I found this place by chance en route to a museum with my son," he said. "Moreover, there was nobody who speaks English at the ticket box."
Festival guide maps are only available in Korean and English.
Organizers cite realistic constraints.
The organizing committee is composed of 35 officials temporarily tasked with the work. Most of them are Goseong County officials, not specialists in running an expo or marketing.
It's also just the fourth year the event has been held.
"It's true that there is still much to be desired, compared with our efforts," said Ha Jong-wan, an official at the committee.
However, the expo is "evolving" in content and quality, and it will be able to become a global blockbuster some day, he stressed.
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