[Viewpoint]Yeosu much more than just an expoThe International Exhibitions Bureau’s inquiry mission, after its five-day inspection visit to Yeosu, said, “The preparations made by Yeosu were fantastic and almost perfect, and the enthusiasm of the people to host a certified expo in 2012 was so hot it was indisputable.”
Yeosu citizens’ desire to host Expo 2012 ― which was expressed in various ways, including the campaign to collect the signatures of 1 million people to support the bid, operation of a train for Yeosu Expo publicity, countless yellow ribbons flying along the streets representing the wishes of the people and thousands of people in welcoming crowds who took to the streets to meet the mission ― was indeed earnest.
Expo 2012 Yeosu will not just be a festival for Yeosu. It will provide momentum for another leap forward by South Korea. Expo 2012 Yeosu will be a three-month long official exposition, certified by the International Exhibitions Bureau. The total floor space of the Yeosu Expo will be 247,935 square meters (2.7 million square feet), and it is expected that the number of visitors, both from home and abroad, will be about 8 million. Considering that the Seoul Olympics in 1988 attracted 2.9 million spectators and the 2002 World Cup Korea was enjoyed by 3.5 million spectators, Expo 2012 will be a much bigger event, in terms of spectators, than the last two international events.
Moreover, the economic effect of the international exhibition will be enormous. It is estimated that Expo 2012 will bring such economic gains as a 10.3 trillion won ($11 billion) boost in production, creating 4.1 trillion won in added value and creating jobs for 90,000 people. Besides the economic gains, the Expo will carry enormous ripple effects to our political, societal and cultural fields.
The theme of Expo 2012 proposed by Yeosu is “The Living Ocean and Coast.” By presenting a solution to the crisis in the marine ecology caused by global warming, Yeosu intends to strengthen its role in the international community.
The historical fact that Spain, the Netherlands and Great Britain emerged as advanced countries after conquering the sea implies a lot. The sea is the last repository of resources that humans possess. If Yeosu wins the right to host Expo 2012, it will certainly provide South Korea a chance to be a maritime power again, long after the era of JangBogo, the legendary hero of the sea.
As proven by the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and 2002 World Cup soccer games, we Koreans have the mysterious cohesive power to overcome any difficulties.
By successfully completing the inspection visit by the governing body for international expositions, Yeosu has passed the turning point in the race to win the right to host Expo 2012. As is the case in a marathon, in the competition to win the right to host the international exhibition too, it is much more difficult and critical to run the remaining half after the turning point.
The final winner will be decided by the vote of the delegates from the government of 98 contracting parties of the Bureau of International Exhibitions at its general assembly that will be convened in Paris in November.
Therefore, all Korean people and organizations, including the central and local governments, politicians, businessmen, the press and citizens, must all work together.
One worrisome thing is that the effort to host the international exhibition will lose priority among the various national tasks when the presidential race starts in the latter half of the year.
President Roh Moo-hyun has expressed a strong will to host the international exhibition when he took part in the reception held in honor of the inquiry mission and gave them a promise that Korea will make the southern coastline of the country a beautiful place in the world with the hosting of Expo 2012. At the same time, Korean politicians have pledged to give bipartisan support to the international exhibition and the business community did not spare any effort in support of Yeosu’s bid.
In the future, too, we should not lose the strong will to win the right to host the international exhibition.
If Yeosu wins the right to host Expo 2012, it will provide the southern coastal region of the country an opportunity to make a great leap forward, contribute to the balanced development of the national territory and open a new maritime era in South Korea.
Expo 2012 in Yeosu is a vital task for the nation.
*The writer is a professor of industrial design at Honam University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Song Jean-hee