Is Busan ready to host the World Expo?

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Is Busan ready to host the World Expo?

The author is a K-entertainment team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“World Expos, officially known as International Registered Exhibitions, are a global gathering of nations dedicated to finding solutions to pressing challenges of our time by offering a journey inside a universal theme through engaging and immersive activities.” This is the first sentence of the introduction of World Expo by the Bureau International des Exposition.

The biggest justification to host the expo is to get together to think about the common prosperity of humanity and seek solutions, regardless of the secondary effects that the host country expects. The expo is filled with inspirational technologies and events that can spread consensus among the general public through experiences.

Organizers first set their big theme — “food” for Milan in 2015, “future connectivity” for Dubai in 2020 and “health” for Osaka and Kansai in 2025 — before inviting people and international organizations around the world. Without such a convincing cause, it would not make sense to hold a large-scale event that puts a burden on the most pressing challenge of the humanity, the climate crisis.

As the campaign to bid for the 2030 Expo in Busan begins, I have more worries than expectations. As those involved gave interviews, questions arose. News headlines include “expected economic impact of 61 trillion won,” “Korea as one of the seven largest economies,” and “turn Busan into Singapore.” These are very straightforward. The homepage for Busan’s bid for Expo 2030 is filled with pledges shouting out, “Busan will make it in 2030.” It shows images of nature, sustainability, future technology, Hallyu and BTS at once. But it is hard to predict what kind of picture it is hoping to draw. While internal support and response are important, little information is available for the 170 member countries of the BIE who will cast a vote in November 2023 or potential visitors.

What are rival cities like Riyadh and Rome doing? Riyadh, which has been publicly supported by 57 members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and more than 70 countries, including France, appears to be confident of winning the bid. It has solid support from voting countries and the oil money to make promises.

Rome is supposedly an unlikely winner, but it already shows the big picture of what its expo would be like. The theme is the metropolis where two-thirds of mankind will be living by 2050. It has a clear vision to seek ways to turn big cities that have been at odds with nature into cities that coexist with nature.

What is the vision of Busan? National interest is something that can be discussed internally. But this is entirely Korea’s situation. If Busan doesn’t have funds as big as Saudi Arabia, shouldn’t it at least have a clear vision to present as a member of the international community? I am worried that the bid is vague and lukewarm, but I hope my concern turns out to be groundless in November 2023.
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