Ensuring the Yeosu Expo’s successThe KTX bullet train from Seoul arrived at Yeosu Station in South Jeolla at 11:41 a.m., less than four hours after departing from the capital. The city of Yeosu along the southern coast of the peninsula is brimming with participants from all parts of the world preparing for the May 12-Aug. 12 Yeosu Expo 2012, which is recognized by the Bureau of International Expositions. The venue for the event is right across from the train station. Final touches on the main exposition center at the new Yeosu port will be wrapped up soon.
The Expo is the largest international fete Korea will host this year and is the second BIE-recognized event hosted by the country after the 1993 Daejeon Expo, which saw participants from 106 countries. Unlike other expositions, the Yeosu Expo will be held in a small city of just 300,000, far away from the capital and major cities.
Kang Dong-suk, chairman of the organizing committee, said the goal is to turn the expo into an event for the entire southern coastal region, not just for Yeosu. Under the theme “The Living Ocean and Coast,” the exhibition involves 2,500 small and large islands and the sea coast linking Yeosu, Namhae, Goheung, Gwangyang, Busan and Jeju. The lodging and traffic has been spread across the entire southern coast with a long-term vision to unite the southern coastal region as a maritime tourism belt.
A total of 10 trillion won ($8.8 billion) was spent on constructing roads and traffic infrastructure along the southern coast. The bullet train can arrive in Yeosu from Seoul within three hours and 30 minutes, which will be shortened to two hours and 50 minutes by the time the expo begins. The highway network along the southern region has also been renovated and expanded to shorten the driving distance. Busan will serve as the hub for visitors from Japan, while Gwangju and Jeju airports will receive guests from China.
The infrastructure goals were well set and are now ready, but the expo’s profitability remains in question. Publicity is insufficient, and there are few eye-catching tourism packages highlighting the scenic features of the southern coast. CNNGo recommends the Yeosu Expo as a must-see event this year, but tourism programs to meet the potential demand are lacking. The exposition can test a small city’s potential and demonstrate the raising synergy effect through enhancing cooperation among neighboring regions. The government and entire nation should pitch in so that the event does not end as merely a regional affair.