September 2023


Bidding for global dialogue

South Korea’s president and business leaders say hosting the high-profile World Expo in 2030 would draw 50 million people to the country, showcasing its high tech industries and enabling international dialogue. Duncan Bartlett considers the prospects

The President of South Korea has promised to stage one of the most impressive events ever held in Asia by hosting the 2030 World Expo in the southeastern port city of Busan.

President Yoon Suk-yeol says the Expo will be ‘the best of all time’.

In a recent speech in Paris, Mr Yoon predicted that ‘the World Expo Busan will be a solutions platform addressing humanity’s complex and urgent challenges’. The event would offer positive suggestions on how to overcome such challenges, including conflict, the digital divide and climate change.

The Korean War, fought from 1950 to 1953,‘turned this nation to ruin’, said the President, adding:‘But thanks to the help of the international community, Korea transformed itself into an economic powerhouse full of high-tech industries and innovative technologies. Korea wishes to give back to the international community what it has received thus far.’

President Yoon’s speech was delivered at a meeting of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the international body in charge of overseeing the World Expo. Delegates representing virtually every country in the world will decide which city wins when they cast their votes in November.

Busan’s bid is competing against those from the Italian capital Rome and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Ukraine had also hoped to host the event but its bid was suspended following the country’s invasion by Russia.

President Yoon, spearheading Busan’s bid
President Yoon, spearheading Busan’s bid

President Yoon and the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been actively promoting Busan as a gateway to the Asian region. They say that the World Expo will create new business opportunities and maintain that South Korea’s state-of-the-art digital technology will provide a fantastic stage for global dialogue, promoting collaboration between nations and companies.

Hosting the Expo was one of President Yoon’s campaign pledges and all departments of the government have been backing the project. The potential economic benefits are significant: the South Korean government estimates that the event could generate 61 trillion won (US$48 billion) by drawing visitors from around the world to engage in immersive activities based on the themes of scientific, technological, economic and social progress.

The World Expo has been likened to an Olympics of economy and culture, which celebrates humanity’s achievements in industry, education, science, and technology, while also showcasing the merits of the host country.

If Busan is selected as the venue for the World Expo 2030, the city intends to use the slogan ‘Transforming the world, navigating toward a better futureto promote achievements in science and technology.

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Port of Busan
GATEWAY TO ASIA: The Port of Busan

Supporters have emphasised that Busan is a globally renowned port, known for its excellent infrastructure and sophisticated tourism resources. Should Busan be selected as the host of the World Expo 2030, approximately 50 million visitors would be expected to flock to the city over a six month period.

Other cities which have successfully hosted a World Expo have reported many positive outcomes. For example, after hosting the World Expo 2020, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates became widely recognised. Supporters of the Busan bid maintain that it, too, would be able to enhance its standing as a world famous port.

South Korea’s most successful pop group, BTS, has been appointed as the official ambassador for the World Expo bid. The band staged a concert in Busan last year which was attended by fans from across Asia and around the world.

South Korea’s most successful pop group, BTS with caption - South Korea’s much-loved pop group, BTS, has been appointed official ambassador for the World Expo bid
South Korea’s much­loved pop group, BTS, has been appointed official ambassador for the World Expo bid

Leading Korean companies – including all the major Korean conglomerates, known as chaebols – have joined Busan’s efforts to win the bid and showcasewhat the city has to offer.

For example, LG is playing promotional videos supporting Busan’s bid on billboards inNew York’s Times Square and Piccadilly Circus in London, while a London double decker bushas even been painted silver to highlight the bid.

Videos made by SK Group and Hyundai have also been used for promotional purposes and have been viewed millions of times and translated into French and other languages. Raising awareness of Busan’s bid within France is deemed especially important, as this is where the General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the body that ultimately decides the location of World Expo 2030, is based. Indeed, a mission led by Patrick Specht of the BIE has visited South Korea to assess Busan’s suitability.

Boogi, the mascot of Busan’s 2030 Exposition, curries favour with his cute and friendly persona

Articles on the merits of Busan as a location have appeared in all leading French newspapers, including Le Monde.

There is a more light-hearted side, too. Busan is represented by a cute mascot known as Boogi, a rather plump seagull. Seong Min-young, an official at the new media communication division of the Busan Metropolitan City government, explains that Boogi is an acronym of the Korean term busan galmaegi, meaning seagull. He has wavy hair thanks to the ocean breeze and sports a pair of smart glasses for the latest technology updates.

If,indeed, Busan is selected as the host of World Expo 2030, the event will be the first Registered Exposition to ever take place in Korea.

Koreans across the countryare hopeful that Busan will win the bid, bringing people together from around the world in South Korea’s foremost maritime city. It is expected that many conversations will take place, creating a sustainable future that will go far beyond Busan, positively impacting the whole of humanity.

Nicholas Nugent, a former BBC correspondent, watches the technological race, or war between East and West

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