Yeosu ready to welcome expo guests
Organizers making final pitch to draw 10 million visitors
By Lee Hyo-sik
With only 10 days remaining before the southwestern port city of Yeosu hosts a world expo, organizers are making a final pitch to attract as many visitors as possible from both here and abroad during the three-month event.
Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea will run from May 12 through Aug. 12, under the theme, ``The Living Ocean and Coast.’’
The organizing committee said 105 countries and 10 international organizations have confirmed their participation in the largest global event ever hosted by the coastal city.
The committee expects to attract a total of 10 million visitors, including 550,000 from overseas. About 300,000 Chinese are expected, followed by 200,000 from Japan. Those from Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas will account for the remainder.
The Yeosu Expo site, built on 2.72 million square meters of land, houses 23 exhibition halls including an International Pavilion that is three times larger than the COEX exhibition center in southern Seoul.
``We had initially expected about 100 nations to take part in the Yeosu Expo. But the figure has reached 105. This shows the upcoming festival has attracted a great deal of attention from the global community,’’ said Kang Dong-suk, chairman of the organizing committee.
Nearly 1.8 trillion won ($1.6 billion) has been spent to build exhibition halls and other facilities at the expo site, as well as to construct or improve roads and other transport infrastructure in and around Yeosu. The committee expects to spend a total of 308 billion won in operational costs, including personnel expenses.
``We completed the construction of the exhibition pavilions and support facilities by March. Since the beginning of April, we have started test-operating all the facilities and plan to provide a perfect service to visitors,’’ Kang said.
Organizers have been operating about 80 exhibition facilities and rehearsing a variety of cultural performances, while recruiting thousands of mock visitors to have them provide feedback.
``Based on their opinions, we have modified our programs and improved facilities to offer visitors services second to none,’’ the chairman said. ``We have been working hard for the past four years to make preparations for the Yeosu Expo, the second of its kind in Korea after the Daejeon Expo in 1993. We are confident the upcoming festival will be one of the world’s most successful.’’
What to see
The Yeosu Expo boasts 80 exhibition facilities, including the Korea Pavilion, the International Pavilion and seven corporate pavilions.
The Korea Pavilion will express the vision of a country strong in maritime affairs and in its contribution to the future of human society. The building will symbolize new marine green growth.
The International Pavilion will provide space for which 105 participating countries can plan and hold their exhibitions, while seven corporate pavilions have been built and will be operated by sponsoring business groups ― Samsung, Hyundai Motor, LG, GS, Lotte, POSCO and SK.
There are also four must-see thematic facilities. First, the Big-O will be a venue to experience the theme of Yeosu Expo. Built on the waters off the coast of Yeosu New Port, it will provide an on-the-sea event area suitable for a broad range of exciting experiences, including a nighttime multi-media show.
Expo Digital Gallery will be the main thoroughfare, 415 meters long and 21 meters wide, passing through the heart of the International Pavilion. Visitors will feel like they are walking under the sea by viewing various digitalized marine creatures swimming on a large screen installed overhead.
The Marine Life Pavilion is also hoped to be one of the most visited during the three-month fair. Built by Hanhwa Hotel and Resort, it will exhibit diverse marine ecosystems of the five oceans, including the white whale. It will recreate ocean ecosystems as a 21st century aquarium using information and ubiquitous technologies.
Sky Tower, abandoned silos that have been turned into an observation deck, provides a great view of the entire expo site and its surrounding area.
Visitors with children are strongly recommended to try the Energy Park, Deep-Sea Fisheries Experience Zone and Coastal Fisheries Experience Zone.
The organizers have also built several performance sites, such as Expo Hall, a tent theater and the Big-O Floating Stage, to showcase a total of 8,000 cultural events, including K-pop concerts, for 93 days.
``When the expo comes to an end after its three-month run, we will tear down most of the structures. But the Big-O and Sky Tower will remain intact to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to Yeosu for many years to come,’’ Kang said.
Transportation & accommodation
The central and municipal governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve accessibility to Yeosu via air, land and sea.
``We upgraded exiting roads or built new ones in and around the city for the expo. Korail, the state-run railroad operator, now operates a bullet train between Yeosu and Seoul, reducing travel time significantly,’’ he said.
The chairman added visitors will be able to come to the expo site via sea as ferries will link Yeosu with Busan and Jeju. ``For foreign visitors from China and Japan, they can fly here on chartered flights. Or they can take ferries and dock at the port, which is right next to the expo venue.’’
Kang strongly encouraged local visitors to leave their cars at six temporary parking lots set up on the outskirts of the city. ``We expect severe traffic congestion in the downtown area during the three-month period. Yeosu residents will refrain from using private vehicles. Visitors should also park outside the city and take free shuttle buses to the expo site.’’
The chairman also expressed concerns about a shortage of accommodation. ``Yeosu and its surrounding areas significantly lack decent lodging facilities that can accommodate a large number of non-Koreans. But we do not worry about Korean visitors because they will figure out where to stay.’’
Kang said there are about 1,000 hotel rooms in Yeosu and the nearby area, including the newly-constructed MVL hotel at the expo site that has 331 rooms.
To ease the expected shortage of rooms, the chairman said the organizing committee has been in talks with travel agencies to have foreign guests stay in Busan, Gwangju and other large cities nearby, and shuttle them back and forth.