SEOUL — Santa Claus may have an easier time finding South Korea this year.

Lotte Mart officials told Stripes in a phone interview Friday that South Korea’s first Toys ‘R’ Us could open as early as December 8.

The store, to occupy almost 28,000 square feet of the Lotte Mart in Guli, will be the biggest toy store in the country, said Lotte Mart spokesperson Kim Min-jin. The store is about a 25-minute subway ride from Yongsan Garrison.

It will sell 8,000 kinds of toys, including some Kim said would otherwise be hard to find in South Korea.

According to a Lotte Mart press release Lotte Shopping signed a licensing agreement with Toys ‘R’ Us last December and began preparations to open the store this month. Lotte plans to operate 15 to 20 Toys ‘R’ Us stores in South Korea by 2010.

“So if you have some types of toys you want to play with in your mind, you will find them in our various collections,” Kim said.

It’s welcome news for Americans living a country with few of the stateside toy-shopping options to which they are accustomed.

“You can never have enough toys,” said 7-year-old Kate Hales, adding that she misses the large toy stores in the U.S., and hopes to visit the new Toys ‘R’ Us after it opens.

Kate’s mother, Anne, also expressed interest in seeing a larger toy selection.

“I would shop there,” she said. “Especially if it was convenient to the subway.”

Anne said she currently buys toys for her three children at the Four Seasons on Yongsan or in Tongdaemun, but added that Four Seasons often doesn’t have what she wants.

“The [Four Seasons] is small enough that they can’t fill the needs of each age group. Over the course of a year they’re adequate, but at any one time, they’re not.”

Staff Sgt. Darren Walton of the 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) also said he was thrilled to hear the retail chain would come to South Korea.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s an American store, so it should be good.”

Once open, the store can be reached by taking subway Line 1 to the Guli stop. The stop opens directly into the Lotte Mart.

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