Can BTS, Squid Game’s Lee Jung-jae help South Korea edge out Saudi Arabia to host the 2030 World Expo?
- Busan is one of four cities, along with Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh, Rome, and Odesa in war-torn Ukraine vying to host the 2030 world fair
- The city’s mayor Park Heong-joon said in an interview that his campaign team was ready to tap on expertise from Shanghai, which hosted the 2010 World Expo
South Korea’s second largest city, the southeastern seaside metropolis of Busan, is among four contenders hoping to host the 2030 world fair.
The planet’s major cities have long prized World Expo hosting rights, where avant-garde inventions of the time such as the sewing machine, the lawnmower and the first vehicle running on oil have been introduced.
Governments tend to spare no expense when it comes to hosting. The 2010 Shanghai World Expo, for instance, reportedly cost a staggering US$40 billion.
In Busan, however, authorities are saying – not so fast.
Park, a former sociology professor, has been spearheading Busan’s campaign which has included making presentations before the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the World Expo’s 170-nation organising body.
Member states will decide the winner in November 2023.
Hosting world fairs have traditionally offered a degree of prestige rivalled only by the Olympics or World Cup.
Park said Busan’s bid took into account the fact that the World Expo remained the one major event South Korea had not yet held.
It played host to the World Cup in 2002 after winning a joint bid with Japan, and was the host of the 1988 Summer Olympics and most recently the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
A large part of his city’s campaign is leveraging the influence of Korean pop culture, Park said.
Getting BTS to come on board as ambassadors for the campaign was “really important”, Park said.
South Korea’s diplomats meanwhile are expected to kick into high gear with lobbying efforts in the coming months. Rival bidder Riyadh has reportedly garnered the support of some 70 countries, according to local media.
Park, in the interview, said the government was sending special delegations to multiple regions including the Pacific islands, Southeast Asia, Central Asia as well as Latin America.
For Asia in general, the Busan mayor added that his city’s hopes to host the world fair represented an opportunity for regional cooperation.
The floating city plan that Busan is working on with developer Oceanix and UN-Habitat, for instance, was one of the sustainable development projects the city is hoping to profile and garner international support for, Park said. Made up of interconnected platforms, the US$200 million project will cover an area of 15.5 acres and will be able to accommodate 12,000 people. The company’s website said the floating metropolis can produce its own energy, water, and food.
The project is seen as a test bed for one of the long-term solutions to deal with rising sea levels that experts say is likely to put some 40 per cent of humanity at risk.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg