Here's all you need to know about Busan's best-traveled bird Boogi

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Here's all you need to know about Busan's best-traveled bird Boogi

A white-feathered, chubby bird is fluttering across Korea, as the country is ramping up promotional efforts to bring the World Expo 2030 to the southeastern city of Busan.
You may confuse it with a penguin at first glance, but Boogi, the proud mascot of Busan, is the port city's most-beloved seagull — and arguably the busiest seabird to have ever existed.
Boogi the seagull is a 21-year-old intern working for the Busan Metropolitan City. From Gwanghwamun in the heart of Seoul to Busan’s crowded beaches, the 6.6-foot-tall seagull’s presence manifests itself everywhere.
Its ambitious plan is to win the world’s favor with cuteness, creating a more approachable and trendy image for Busan.
“Boogi is a Busan person in a nutshell — hot-tempered, speaking the local dialect, and friendly,” Seong Min-young, an official at the new media communication division of the Busan Metropolitan City government, told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Wednesday.
“Unlike other local mascots that usually don’t speak, Boogi has a voice,” explained Seong, adding that the city hired a professional actor to appear at public occasions and in online videos to directly communicate with citizens.
“People tend to get more interested in a character that has a voice and something to say, and we believe that's what makes Boogi particularly attractive as a promotional channel for the expo,” said Seong.
On Tuesday, Boogi welcomed the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) enquiry mission upon its arrival at Busan Station to evaluate the city's proposal, along with the city’s Mayor Park Heong-joon, flapping its wings while wearing a flower necklace. 
The seagull-themed character also appeared at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul during an outdoor exhibition event organized by the expo bidding committee, which ran from March 30 to April 3, performing dance moves and striking poses for photos. Boogi is also part of the Expo Dream Expedition team, which traveled across the country to rally support for the city.
A special promotional video of Boogi will be uploaded within this week, according to the city, to celebrate the BIE delegation’s visit to Korea.
Boogi the seagull greets the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) delegation arriving at Busan Station on Tuesday. [BUSAN METROPOLITAN CITY]

Boogi the seagull greets the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) delegation arriving at Busan Station on Tuesday. [BUSAN METROPOLITAN CITY]

Why Boogi?
Boogi made its debut in 2021, as Busan’s first new mascot in 26 years. 
The name is a Korean acronym for Busan galmaegi, meaning a seagull.
As Busan is Korea’s largest port city shoring the East Sea, the seabirds have long been synonymous with the city. “Busan Galmaegi” (1982) is also the name of a song by singer Moon Sung-jae and is beloved by many Koreans.
Boogi the seagull has quite the backstory; it was born on June 5, 2002, the Busan Metropolitan City explains. The day marked Korea’s very first win at a World Cup, 48 years after the country began to play in the event.
Boogi, then only an egg, hatched on top of Busan Asiad Main Stadium, jolted awakened by the sound of erupting cheers when Hwang Sun-hong of the Korean national team scored the team's first goal against Poland.
Now 21 years old, Boogi is currently working as an intern for the Busan city government’s communication team.
“We’ve tried to tell a story with Boogi,” said Seong of the Busan city government.
Everything about Boogi speaks something about Busan.
Flower prints on Boogi’s sneakers are camellias, which are the city’s emblem flower, while the shoe itself pays tribute to the fact that Busan’s economy was driven by the growth of the shoemaking business during the 1970s and 80s.
The red glasses that the seagull is wearing are actually smart glasses, according to the city, which signifies that Busan will focus on future industries to boost its economy.
When Busan first kicked off the promotional campaign for the expo bidding, the city considered creating a new character altogether, according to the city official, but decided that using the already pumped-up popularity of Boogi would be more efficient in bringing people on board with the port city's bid. 
Boogi has risen in popularity since its first appearance.
In 2021, Boogi won five awards at Korea’s local mascot contest hosted by the Korea Creative Agency and Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and also took home a prize in 2022.
The Busan city government is conducting various promotional events with the character on social media, and plans to hold a fan meet-up with Busan citizens in April.
Backed by popular demand, Boogi is making appearances at Busan’s most-popular tourist attractions as well.
Ahead of the BIE enquiry mission’s arrival, Busan wrapped cable cars installed at Songdo Beach and small trams at Haeundae Blueline Park, a tourist attraction facility, with Boogi’s image. The promotional event, aimed at raising public awareness among both locals and tourists, will run until June.  
Economics of a mascot
Representative symbols, including mascots and logos, are a crucial part of visual communication for a global event and its brand marketing.
A mascot “represents the identity of the venue” for mega-events such as the Olympics and contributes to “attracting and fostering public participation,” according to a 2022 publication by Choi Hwa-yeol, business professor at the department of airline service management at Jeju International University, and Lee Hyuk-jin, professor at the liberal arts department of Eulji University.
Host countries of major international events such as the Olympics, the World Expo and the World Cup strive to come up with eye-catching mascots, in order to ramp up public interest and make money with goods and products featuring the character.
Before and during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, over 895,000 cuddly toys of tiger Soohorang and bear Bandabi, the mascots of the Winter Games, were sold at the official online souvenir shop, according to Lotte Shopping. The total revenue of souvenir sales reached 32 billion won ($24.4 million) over the 16 days of Olympic Games.
Boogi is not likely to be appointed as a regular mascot due to possible copyright issues if Busan actually wins the bidding race, according to Busan city.
“A mascot needs to have a symbolic significance,” Prof. Lee of Eulji University told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Wednesday, suggesting that “the World Expo mascot would need to involve symbols related to Busan’s industry, the city’s image or the World’s Fair.”

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