[INTERVIEW] Busan focuses on hosting 2030 World Expo and makes its pitch
The southern port city Busan is one of the five cities contending. The others are Moscow; Rome; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Odessa, Ukraine.
Even with the odds of Moscow or Odessa winning low due to the recent conflict, Busan winning may still be a challenge.
Kim Young-ju, Bid Committee for World Expo 2030 Busan chairman, said in a recent interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily that winning the World Expo holds significance beyond just holding a global festival.
"The World Expo will help the country unite and set a common purpose that will motivate further advancement," Kim said.
He stressed that the role of the World Expo today is different from in the past.
The World Expo, which is held every five years, used to be a global event that showcased the latest technological developments.
But today it is an event where countries gather to discuss key challenges, including climate change, that the world faces and collectively search for solutions.
Kim stressed that Korea, especially Busan, is the perfect candidate in a time when the biggest issues the world faces is the widening divide between the rich and the poor and the digital divide.
"Korea is in a unique position among the contending countries," Kim said, noting that the country has experienced all the stages of development: a country that was in ruins and relied on help from the other countries to a country that developed rapidly and now a developed country that is in a position to return the help it received in the past.
He said Korea understands the difficulties and challenges that other countries are experiencing.
Busan is a city where Korea started to rebuild from the war and today is transforming into a city that runs on advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence.
Kim said Korea understands inclusivity, especially at a time when the gaps in society are widening.
As such, the theme that Busan is proposing is "Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future."
Kim said the expo being held in a city that is not Seoul will help advance regional development, a major issue that the country struggles to solve.
Kim was the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy between 2007 and 2008 and also served as chairman of the Korea International Trade Association.
He joined the Busan Expo bid committee in June last year and has been actively promoting Busan despite the restrictions imposed due to the global pandemic.
In January, he visited the World Expo 2020 in Dubai with President Moon Jae-in.
The chairman frequently takes notes on any good ideas proposed, one of which is promoting the Busan Expo to foreign schools that have campuses in Korea.
The following are excerpts from the Korea JoongAng Daily's interview with Kim.
Q. Can you tell us about the progress made since filing the World Expo bid last year? What point are you focusing on most?
A. The government has initiated various activities, including organizing the bidding committees — private, government and National Assembly — since submitting the official bid for the 2030 World Expo hosting with the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in June last year.
We are preparing a Candidature Dossier that is distinctively different from our competition while actively promoting Busan at home and abroad.
We are also preparing the presentation to be delivered to BIE members in June and November and the field evaluation expected to be held early next year.
This year, the competition among the five cities including Busan will intensify.
Korea is doing all it can to win the support of BIE member countries against our competition, especially among those that are in favor of us.
The government, including the Foreign Ministry and the Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry, are helping with our activities and leading Korean companies such as Samsung and Hyundai Motor are supporting our efforts.
However, winning the support of BIE members isn't easy.
Our competition is aggressive.
Russia has failed to win the bid to host the World Expo three times — for the 2010, 2020 and 2025 expos.
Saudi Arabia is likely to be our biggest competitor as it has a strong will to show off its national-level industrial transformation through the World Expo.
Italy, while it hosted the World Expo in Milan in 2015, hopes to hold another in 2030.
There is strong unity among related nations in the region.
The European competitors have strong support within Europe and Africa. Saudi Arabia has the support of Middle East and Islamic countries, even those in Southeast Asia.
We're in a position where we have to convince each and every country.
It's not an easy task, but one of our strong suits is that we have a lot of stories, including culturally and also in pop culture, thanks to the growing global recognition of Korean films, music and other forms of entertainment.
Busan is at a disadvantage compared to its competitors in terms of recognition. It is not a national capital, like Moscow, or a famous tourist attraction like Rome.
Busan, however, is the second-largest city in Korea. It is the No.1 port city. It is a major tourist city and a future industry city thanks to major fourth industrial revolution projects, including the special economic district on blockchain and the Eco-Delta Smart City.
It is a hub city that connects the world.
As such, it has the potential to host the World Expo.
One of Busan's strengths is that we have the experience and know how to host major global events.
The city hosted the Asian Games in 2002, the APEC summit in 2006 and the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011.
Other global events hosted in Busan included ITU Telecom World, the Korea-Asean Summit in 2014 and 2019 and the Inter-American Development Bank annual meeting in 2015.
Busan is the center for transport logistics, with its infrastructure, such as the world's second largest transshipment hub, the city's airport and high-speed rail lines.
It is the gateway city to Eurasia.
Busan is a city also with strong soft power — with annual tourist numbers exceeding 40 million and being the epicenter of Korea's cultural phenomenon "hallyu," as the city hosts the Busan International Film Festival, the Busan One Asia Festival and G-Star.
We plan to deliver the city's competiveness and attractiveness to the BIE members through the Candidature Dossier, especially when there is a field evaluation early next year.
Also we plan to actively promote Busan using the Korean government's cultural centers abroad and the global networks of Korean major companies.
How is Busan Expo's theme different from those of the competitors. And what do you think is the attractiveness of Busan's theme?
We have chosen "Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future" for the Busan 2030 Expo, especially as the world is faced with threats, including the continuing Covdi-19 pandemic, the technology divides and climate change.
Our sub-themes are "Sustainable Living with Nature," "Technology for Humanity" and "Platform for Caring and Sharing."
We hope to address the changes of technologies, the good but also the bad that comes from such technological development and the inequalities happening in the world.
Expos of the past were focused on new technology. But today the role of the expo has changed to where countries gather to identify challenges that we as a humanity face and seek out solutions collectively.
We're in an era where even with the rapid technology development, the world faces a widening divide. Every country faces the issue of sharing and caring and inclusive development.
Korea is in a unique position among the contending countries.
We are able to address these key issues of our time from the perspective of all angles — as a country that was in ruins and lived with the help of others to a country that went through development and is now becoming a country that can give aid to others.
We understand the difficulties of developing countries and the point of view of advanced countries.
Korea is most equipped to address the issue on major transformation that breaks the divide and barriers between countries.
We have a deep understanding of inclusivity and we have the ability to understand and create empathy on sharing and caring.
Busan, even within Korea, is a city that is most exemplary in terms of the theme as it is a city where the past and the future coexist.
The site in which the Busan Expo is to be held is the port in which UN peacekeepers, medical personnel and aid were offloaded during the Korean War.
It was where war orphans and North refugees were taken care of with the help of peacekeepers and U.S. forces.
It is where Korea's welfare started.
Busan is a city that played a pivotal role in the progress of Korea transforming from a country that received aid to a country now giving out aid.
It is a city that can show the best of its swift adaptation and transformation towards the fourth industrial revolution.
There are many factors that contribute to the bid, including the theme, competitiveness, the public's support, the global recognition of the city hoping to win the bid, the diplomatic capacity of the government and the private sector.
In the case of Busan, it has relatively lower recognition compared to other cities.
The biggest difficulty that we had faced is that the Covid-19 pandemic has restricted our promotional activities, especially those made face-to-face. We were planning to select and target specific countries in winning support using our consulates around the world, strategically.
Locally, we also struggle to gain full support at the national level outside of Busan and in the region.
To draw out larger public support, we are trying to increase the exposure of the Busan 2030 Expo through companies that have more contacts with customers and through the media.
We already have the actor Lee Jung-jae from Netflix's Squid Games as our first celebrity ambassador and plan to name the virtual reality human Rozy as a spokesperson.
We are planning other ways to increase support by holding various events connected with major festivals, including those held online considering the current Covid-19 situation.
What would the impact and effect of Busan winning the bid? How different would it be from the smaller expos held in Daejeon and Yeosu? Can you tell me the difference between a "registered expo" an "recognized expo?"
The recognized expo, which Busan is bidding on, is a World Expo that is held for six months under a broad theme. A recognized expo, or "Specialized Expo" is an exhibition held for three months under a specific theme.
The 1993 Daejeon Expo and the 2012 Yeosu Expo were both specialized expos.
If Busan wins, it would be the first "registered expo" held in Korea.
The only registered expos held in Asia are the 1970 expo held in Osaka, the 2005 held in Aichi and the 2010 hosted in Shanghai.
The registered World Expo is one of the three global events. The other two are the Olympics and the World Cup.
If Busan is picked, it would provide new opportunities for the country's development.
A recent study by the Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade estimated that the expo will generate 43 trillion won of production inducement effects, 18 trillion won in value-added inducement effects and 500,000 jobs.
Korea would become the seventh country in the world to have hosted all three major global events.
It will be an opportunity for the country to show the world the success of the country's development.
The expo will not only raise Korea's national brand abroad but also contribute to a new national balanced development, such as the megacity development in the Busan-Ulsan and Gyeongsang region.
But more so, once selected, it will be an opportunity for the country to unite and set a common goal.
If you think about it, it is an event that will have huge meaning to us.
The World Expo may not be as exciting as the Olympics or the World Cup in terms of entertainment value, but it has a larger impact economically and socially.
The final decisions will be made next year, and we will have seven years to prepare, which is a long time.
Having a common goal that can unite and motivated helps a country to advance further and develop.
The next president and the next administration have to put the World Expo as one of its top priorities.
The first step is most important.
What is your plan on utilizing the facilities after the expo is held? How will it strengthen the culture and tourism in Busan?
The facilities that are built for the expo will be used for various purposes even after the event ends, aligned with our theme "Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future."
Some of the facilities will continue to work on solving climate change. Some will remain permanently as facilities that will promote world peace.
It will be used as a place everyone can enjoy even after the World Expo.
We also plan to set up infrastructure where data from the World Expo could be used for anyone around the world.
But most of all, the World Expo site will be returned to the Busan citizens where it will be used in turning Busan into a smart city that co-exists with nature, especially renewing the old central district that has declined with age.
What did you feel from personally watching the World Expo in Dubai? What do you think the World Expo means today?
The Dubai Expo 2020, which kicked off in October and ends in March, opened under the theme, "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future."
Some 192 countries have exhibited their innovations, technologies, arts and culture.
It is clearly an expo that was filled with lots of things to watch as the site where expo is held used to be desert that's 1.5 times the size of Yeouido, with $15.1 billion invested.
Dubai has built subways and highways and built landmarks, including the Museum of the Future and the World's largest Ferris wheel.
The Dubai Expo especially has meaning as it was held during a time when the world economy contracted due to the spread of the coronavirus.
It was a good opportunity to pique the interest of global visitors as Korea operated the fifth biggest pavilion.
We not only promoted the Busan Expo 2030 but piqued the interest of global visitors through Korean traditional dance and K-pop, including the Korea National Day in which President Moon Jae-in attended on Jan. 16.
We hope that the improvement of status through the wide recognition of Korean culture will win votes.
The Expo as one of the three biggest international events along with the Olympics and the World Cup is a platform where industrial development and culture, the epitome of human civilization, is exchanged, common challenges that humanity faces are discussed and visions for the future proposed.
The World Expo serves not only as an economic and cultural Olympics, where the host country showcases the development achievements in industry and science and technology, but also raising a city's brand globally.
The World Expo that is to be held in 2030 has more meaning as it would be the first expo held since the BIE, which was founded in 1928, celebrated its 100th anniversary.
It would be an opportunity to look back at the 100 years and toward the next 100 years.
It is also the year the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to be achieved.
The World Expo held in Osaka in 1970 and the one held in Shanghai in 2010 were successes, allowing Japan to emerge as a leading economy in the world by showcasing its new industrial development and helping China's economy step up on the global stage.
Are there any blueprints related to the economic development for Korean industries for the Busan Expo 2030?
The 1970 and 2010 expos were opportunities that raised Japan and China to global status overall.
Japan through the 1970 World Expo was able to show the world how it overcame and emerged from its loss in the World War, and the 2010 World Expo was the ground that helped China become a G2 nation.
We are confident that if Busan succeeds in hosting the 2030 World Expo, Korea's global status will step up further.
UNCTAD last year officially recognized Korea as a developed country. The World Expo if hosted in Busan will be a good opportunity to spread Korea's developed status as a brand worldwide.
The World Expo especially will be a good opportunity for Korean companies to expand their businesses as unlike other major events, such CES, which are held over a short period, the World Expo lasts for six months.
We plan to set up measures that will support Korean companies seize such opportunities.
A business pavilion will be set up within the expo so companies will be able to promote their brands and hold forums. Korean products will be on display.
Additionally, there will be opportunities for Korean companies to meet one-on-one and hold investment presentations with visiting government officials of other countries as well as key officials from the private sector.
BY CHEONG CHUL-GUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]