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KEI Spotlight

Why Is Hosting the 2030 World Expo So Important to South Korea?

October 6, 2022

This article was published on The Diplomat on September 12, 2022.

The Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower have something in common: They both were displayed at the Paris Expos. The head of the Statue of Liberty was first exhibited at the 1878 Paris Expo. The Eiffel Tower was the symbol of the Paris Expo of 1889, which was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of French Revolution.

According to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the Inter-governmental Organization in charge of overseeing and regulating the events, Expos, often known as a World’s Fair in the United States, are all international exhibitions that last more than three weeks and are of a non-commercial nature. In the beginning, Expos were platforms to showcase innovative inventions and new technologies such as the telephone, the automobile, the typewriter, the TV, and the elevator. For example, Alexander Graham Bell revealed the telephone at the 1876 Expo held in Philadelphia, and the television, invented by Philo Taylor Farnsworth in 1927, was showcased at the 1939 New York World Expo.

In June 2021, South Korea submitted a letter of candidature to the BIE for the hosting of the World Expo 2030 in Busan. The South Korean government is making an all-out effort to win against Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the leading competitor. South Korea’s world famous boy band BTS was appointed as the honorary ambassadors for the 2030 Busan World Expo, with a proposal letter from the Busan mayor to President Yoon Suk-yeol asking to exclude the members of BTS from mandatory military service of at least 18 months. In South Korea, avoiding conscription service or getting exemption from mandatory military service is a very sensitive issue.

South Korea is also leveraging its business networks to win the bid. South Korea’s top conglomerates banded together to form the World Expo Bidding Committee, a business-led civilian organization made of 11 companies, including Samsung, SK, and Hyundai Motors.

The 2030 Busan Expo is not the first international exhibition hosted by South Korea. The country hosted Expos in Daejeon and Yeosu in 1993 and 2012, respectively. Why is South Korea so enthusiastic about hosting another one in the midst of serious challenges like the unstable financial situation deriving from unexpected inflation, the exchange rate, and lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

To read the full article on The Diplomat, please click here.