Walt Disney Co. is in talks with the city of Seoul to open a theme park near the South Korean capital, according to news reports on Tuesday.

The talks with the Seoul Metropolitan Government were still at an early stage, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified official at the city's investment division.

Seoul Mayor Lee Myung Bak, who made attracting global business one of his campaign pledges in 2002, said the city has made "significant progress" on its plan to attract a theme park and that a decision would be announced early next year, Bloomberg News reported.

Reuters said Burbank-based Disney is now conducting a viability study on a theme park in southern Seoul that is owned and operated by the municipal government. Once a popular attraction, Seoul Grand Park has since been eclipsed by newer competition. Disney is also considering whether the South Korean market is large enough to support investment for the park. South Korea has a population of 48.4 million.

Earlier this year, Disney denied a South Korean media report it had reached a deal to build a theme park in Seoul, Reuters said.

Disney opened a theme park in Hong Kong in September and is considering another park in Shanghai, but it's unlikely to open a second Chinese park before 2010. The entertainment giant also opened the first of two theme parks in Tokyo in 1983.

Disney's four existing and proposed Asian theme parks are all within four hours flying time of Seoul, which could make it more difficult for South Korea to attract enough visitors to justify the building costs, Bloomberg News said.

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