The Korea Herald


PM departs for Paris as fate of Busan's World Expo bid draws near

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Nov. 26, 2023 - 15:30

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Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (third from left) is seen at Incheon Airport before departing for Paris on Sunday. (Yonhap) Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (third from left) is seen at Incheon Airport before departing for Paris on Sunday. (Yonhap)

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo departed for Paris on Sunday to attend a general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions on Tuesday, where a vote will take place to determine the fate of Busan's bid to host the World Expo in 2030.

Accompanying Han at Incheon Airport were Industry Minister Bang Moon-kyu, Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Oh Young-ju, Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon, and Chey Tae-won, who is the head of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the chairman of SK Group.

"I feel that we are just ahead of the finale of a long symphony," Han said on his social media. "With an indomitable spirit, we will do our best to deliver good news (to those who support us), for whom I am most grateful."

The final presentation before the vote will begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, local time, according to Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy chief of the presidential National Security Office. South Korea will be the first candidate to present out of the three, followed by Italy's Rome and Saudi Arabia's Riyadh.

Seoul has kept mum on who the presenters would be.

Han flew to Paris hours after President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee returned to Seoul Sunday morning from Paris.

Following his four-day state visit to the United Kingdom through Thursday, Yoon traveled to Paris on his second visit to the city this year after his BIE presentation in June.

Yoon met delegates from BIE member states Thursday at a dinner and used the meeting as a chance to share that South Korea's experience of the "Miracle on the Han River" can be mirrored by other countries with a focus on education, echoing Busan's goal for world solidarity and to achieve shared growth through the "Busan Initiative."

Afterward, Yoon went to a lunch event on development aid partnership before the BIE member delegations Friday. There, he introduced Busan's World Expo bid as a way to play a constructive role in the international community with responsibility, according to Yoon's office. Yoon also attended on Friday the celebration of South Korea's National Foundation Day -- which falls on Oct. 3 -- to promote Busan as a venue for global inclusive growth.

According to Seoul's own estimate, Yoon has met with 462 officials from 96 countries and visited 12 countries to promote Busan's World Expo bid since July. Han has met 203 officials from 112 countries and has traveled to 25 countries to promote the bid.

Korea's business and industry delegations for the Busan bid, led by SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, have met a combined 2,800 officials from 174 countries.

Together, promoters traveled nearly 20 million kilometers over the past 500 days.

Busan is bidding to host the World Expo 2030 between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2030, under the theme "Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future." The 2030 expo will follow the 2025 expo in Osaka, Japan.

Busan plans to transform a 3.4-square-kilometer area of partially reclaimed land at an old port into a venue for the 2030 Expo. The proposed site will be accessible via a hydrogen-powered tram from a new airport on the nearby island of Gaedeokdo, set to be completed in 2029. Moreover, Busan plans to feature modular floating infrastructure to give visitors a glimpse of how climate-vulnerable populations can survive and thrive.

Rome has proposed the theme "People and Territories: Regeneration, Inclusion and Innovation," while Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh submitted a bid to host the expo under the theme "The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow."

According to the BIE, the vote will be cast on the basis of one vote per country by BIE member state representatives during the BIE General Assembly.

As the final selection process has more than two candidates, a candidate must win more than two-thirds of the votes from the countries present at the General Assembly to be elected in the first round of the ballot. The BIE has 182 member states. If no candidate secures two-thirds of the votes, the one with the least votes would be eliminated, and the two final candidates advance to a second ballot. The winner requires a majority vote to become the host country for the 2030 event.

Japan was the latest country to have openly supported South Korea's World Expo bid. According to Japan's daily Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo made the decision in consideration of Yoon's efforts to mend ties between the two countries.