[NOTEBOOK]The expo experience

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[NOTEBOOK]The expo experience

For Britain, the prime mover of the industrial revolution, the first world's fair was an ambitious plan to show off it's industrial and economic superiority. Britain held the "Great Exhibition of 1851" in London. Over six months, exhibits from 25 countries were viewed by more than 6 million visitors, until then the greatest concentration of people in recorded history.

The Great Exhibition spurred other European cities into competition: in 1889, France held the Paris Exposition International, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The Eiffel Tower was unveiled at the event, illuminated with Thomas Edison's newly-invented filament electric bulbs. Korea had never participated in a world's fair until its delegates arrived in Paris, bringing ramie fabric and traditional Korean hats made of woven horse- tail hair.

Worlds fairs are now called world expositions, or expos, and they are divided into two categories, general and specific. The general exposition, the main attraction for world's fairs, is held every five years. Following Expo 2005 Aichi/Nagoya, the host of the 2010 Expo is still up for grabs. Six countries - South Korea, China, Russia, Poland, Mexico and Argentina - have applied for the event.

Competition between the largest-ever number of applicants to win an expo is fierce.

Korea aims to host the 2010 Expo in Yeosu, a port city in South Jeolla province, with the theme, "Sea and Land for a New Community."

The Daejeon Expo, viewed by 14 million people, was a specific world's fair, meaning its duration and size was limited. On the other hand, the 2010 Expo is a general world's fair, so the area of its exhibition space will be much larger. Organizers expect the number of visitors to reach 30 million, including 5 million people from foreign countries.

The world exposition has made significant contributions to the development of modern technology, since it has provided opportunities of international competition of high-tech products. Such products as the telephone, gramophone, automobile, escalator and air-conditioner have been introduced at various expos.

World expositions, the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup are considered the three largest global events. Only five countries, including the United States, have hosted all three events.

The economic benefits of hosting a world exposition exceed both the Olympics and the World Cup. If Yeosu holds a world exposition, it will cost 2.4 trillion won ($1.8 billion) but will trigger 16.8 trillion won in production. Neither the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games, the 1993 Daejeon Expo nor the 2002 World Cup have had or will have a comparable effect on the local economy.

A judging committee will visit Yeosu later this month, and the host city will then be decided in December.

Unlike Koreans, Chinese are enthusiastic about attracting the exposition. Koreans should take an interest in Yeosu's efforts. Politicians also should join in the efforts to win the 2010 Expo.

The writer is business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Min Byong-kwan

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