World Expo 2030: Elusive Dream or Watershed Moment for Korea’s Takeoff?
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World Expo 2030: Elusive Dream or Watershed Moment for Korea’s Takeoff?


APLN member Kim Won-soo writes on Busan’s bid for the EXPO 2030. The original article is on The Korea Times website.

This week marks a crucial milestone in Korea’s years-long quest to host the World Expo 2030. A senior delegation from the World Expo Organization or Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) will visit Korea’s candidate city, Busan, for an on-site inspection. The Enquiry Mission’s assessment will play an instrumental role as over 170 member states of the BIE prepare to vote this November.

Busan is competing against Riyadh of Saudi Arabia, Rome of Italy and Odesa of Ukraine to host World Expo 2030. Moscow was one of the aspirants as well, but withdrew its candidacy in May 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Even without Russia, however, the competition is no less tough. Saudi Arabia, in particular, is waging a fierce campaign around the world. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is leading the effort as a top national priority by pledging massive amounts of support, financial or otherwise.

For Korea, the World Expo remains the only elusive element when it comes to hosting the triple crown of international mega-events; the Olympics (both summer and winter), the FIFA World Cup and the World Expo. Over the past three decades, Korea tried and failed twice in its bid to host a World Expo. On both occasions, it was given a consolation prize to host a special expo in between the regular World Expos held every five years.

Hosting all three mega-events is a hard feat to achieve. Until now, only six countries (the United States, France, Canada, Japan, Germany and Italy) have it under their belt ― all of them members of the G-7. If Busan’s bid is successful, Korea would become the seventh country to have done it. This fact alone speaks to the prestige of the event, the competitiveness of its bidding process and the political, economic, and other benefits that will follow. This is why the World Expo is often considered the socio-economic Olympics.

All the candidate countries attempt to showcase their full potential as leaders in bringing forth a better future for humanity. To prevail in this bidding process, Korea will need to present a unique vision and a powerful argument for why Busan is the best city for the occasion and explain how it will deliver on its promise. The on-site inspection team will be shown first-hand how dedicated the Korean people are to hosting this prestigious event and how well-prepared Busan is.

This coming September, the United Nations will conduct a midterm review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which started in 2015 with the unanimous blessing of all U.N. member states. Busan’s theme for the World Expo 2030 aligns closely with the 2030 sustainability agenda. The campaign promotes the following three Ps front and center: 1) planet (sustainable living with nature); 2) prosperity (technology for humanity); and 3) people (platform for caring and sharing). The three Ps are key components of all sustainable development goals (SDGs), along with two additional Ps (peace and partnership). They are the central principles that would guide the Busan Expo’s vision for ushering in a better world for future generations.

An extra point of importance Busan could highlight as a candidate city would be its strength as a primary gateway to the Asia-Pacific, one of the world’s most vibrant and prosperous regions. The importance of Asian markets and technology is self-evident as Busan’s success would make it the third consecutive World Expo held in Asia following Dubai in 2020 and Osaka in 2025.

Leading up to the BIE vote in November, the race is bound to intensify. To win it, the whole nation must get behind it. Both public and private sectors must carry out their parts in reaching out to the world. This is not a task preserved only for national and local governments. Businesses and citizens need to get involved as well. Moreover, all the contenders should abide by the spirit of fair competition until the final vote is taken.

The challenges facing Korea’s third bid for the expo are formidable. But they should and can be overcome. Money often talks in these types of competitions. Certainly, it is a welcome development that the role of money is increasingly coming under tight scrutiny. A series of corruption scandals involving other mega-events have caused growing public uproar for more stringent enforcement of ethical standards. Judging from my experience on the international stage, winning the hearts of decision-makers and influencers will be crucial in winning the bid. Busan has the tough task ahead of impressing the global jury with its vision for and commitment to bringing forth a prosperous future for all humanity.

It will be an arduous journey. The first phase begins shortly with the BIE enquiry. I count on Team Korea to seize the opportunity to make the right first impression toward a successful bid. Let us work hard to make Busan Expo 2030 a watershed moment for Korea’s next takeoff as a truly global contributor.

Image: iStock/1356395921

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