SINGAPORE, Nov 12 — A little Korean penguin is going places. This is what is in store for Pororo, a cartoon penguin created by Choi Jong-il in 2003, which has since become a global hit seen in 130 countries.
Choi, the president and CEO of Iconix Co Ltd, who was in Singapore for the official opening of Southeast Asia’s first Pororo Park at Marina Square yesterday, revealed plans to open a Pororo Aqua Park in Bangkok at the end of the month followed by one in Los Angeles next year. The first Pororo Park opened in Seoul five years ago, bringing the total to seven Pororo Parks in South Korea, while there are currently three in China.
“It makes sense to open (the first Pororo Park in the region) in Singapore, as Singapore is an education and cultural hub. It’s our first choice,” said Choi, who is also currently in negotiation to open more in the region. “Singaporeans know South Korea quite well and I would think that they might have visited Pororo Park when they visit Seoul, too.”
Pororo Park Singapore, which is geared for kids from one to nine years old, spans 11,000 square feet and features attractions such as train rides, a jungle gym and a theatre for live performances by the characters. Choi feels a smaller, indoor theme park better suits his aim of introducing fun to young children. “You have big theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios, which you perhaps visit one to two times a year, as it will require you to travel. But with a smaller park like Pororo Park, you only need half an hour to get here (and) you can go many times. We want to keep the park centralised, accessible and very interactive for kids,” he explained, stressing that a visit to the park need not be limited to an occasional “big day out”.
Choi feels the cartoon’s success stems from the fact the penguin and his adventures are all about a kid’s daily life, in contrast to western cartoons’ penchant for “idealistic” themes, such as saving the world or fighting justice or showing extraordinary bravery. “Pororo is just like a kid — naughty, full of curiosity and always getting into different situations. That makes Pororo different and (yet) very relatable,” he said. “Pororo episodes are really based on children’s imagination. There’s no magical element or big idea needed to keep the episodes fresh even after 12 years.”
But Choi is mindful of the big influence Pororo has over his fans and takes pains to pay attention to what Pororo is up to since kids are learning and copying from him. He is just as aware that the Pororo audience is growing up, and shared news of new animation features targeted at primary school children airing in South Korea next year.
“I’m inspired by Pororo. He is a penguin who wants to fly but he can’t. He doesn’t give up and builds himself a plane instead. In this business, there are many challenges to overcome, too, but like Pororo, we can find a way to solve them.” — TODAY