News / Asia

South Korean Expo Struggling to Succeed

A visitor takes picture a turtle at an aquarium of the Expo 2012 in Yeosu, a small city on South Korea's south coast, May 11, 2012.
A visitor takes picture a turtle at an aquarium of the Expo 2012 in Yeosu, a small city on South Korea's south coast, May 11, 2012.
YEOSU, South Korea - A large-scale exposition in South Korea intended to lure millions of visitors and pump billions of dollars into the economy is struggling to meet expectations.

Expo 2012

Spread over 250,000 square meters are 76 pavilions, sponsored by corporations, countries and international organizations, including the United Nations.

Hailed by travel publications as one of the top things to see in the world this year, Expo 2012 features a newly-built aquarium filled with 6,000 tons of water and marine life from beluga whales to African penguins.

With a marine resources theme, the seaside exposition, mainly staffed by 13,000 volunteers, is meant to educate as well as thrill.

There are street performances with giant marionettes on parade.

Two abandoned 67-meter-high cement silos have been converted into the world's loudest pipe organ.

Mixing with the superlatives are a few discordant notes.

  • A parade with a giant marionette at the expo, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • Those who have visited complain of long waits to enter exhibit buildings, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • The Expo site covers 250,000 square meters, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • A guide holds a robot fish.at the expo, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • A robot fish swimming in a tank at the Yeosu Expo, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • A giant robot at the expo, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • A pair of old 67-meter high cement silos were transformed into the Sky Tower containing the "world's loudest" pipe organ, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • Korean-American K-pop star Park Jae-bum performs at the expo, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • 4-Minute is an Award-winning five woman group 4-minute performs at the expo, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • The nightly Big O water fountain and laser show at Expo 2012, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)
  • The nightly Big O water fountain and laser show at Expo 2012, Yeosu, South Korea, June 9, 2012. (S.L. Herman/VOA)

Attracting visitors

The 93-day event is struggling to meet public expectations and projected numbers of visitors.

Kang Hyun-joo, a spokeswoman for the Expo's organizing committee, acknowledges there were management problems at the opening one month ago.

Kang says reaching the stated goal of eight million visitors seems extremely difficult based on current trends. But, there is optimism that when South Korean schools recess for summer vacation next month the numbers will rapidly pick up.

Kang compares the Expo's situation with that of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea when the participation rate was initially fairly low, but rose as enthusiasm increased over time. She says most Expo visitors have deemed themselves highly satisfied by the experience.

Some from overseas have been reluctant to visit because of a perception Yeosu is not affordable and difficult to reach. But Kang disputes that.

Kang says foreigners heard rumors of exorbitant room rates but actual costs recently were cut and accommodations can easily be secured through a real-time telephone system. Also, she explains, transportation is not a big problem with international flights, cruise ships and improved highways coming in to Yeosu.

Another hitch was the failure of a reservation system for the eight most popular pavilions. It was scrapped after so many potential visitors were unable to acquire tickets that some resorted to protesting in front of the organizing committee's headquarters.

A switch to a first-come, first served basis created another problem: frustrating waits in lines of up to two hours.

Visitors such as Andrea Garay, a Nicaraguan citizen living in Seoul, are trying to make the best of it. “Some of the lines when they were too big we just skipped them and then went to the next exhibition,” she said. “The favorite one so far -- the robot presentation in front of Hyundai.”

Exhibits

After the acclaimed robot pavilion, Garay had better luck in the evening, securing front-row seats for an outdoor K-pop concert.

Groups, such as the all-female 4 Minute, are singing and dancing at weekend shows prior to a nightly state-of-the-art multi-media performance. It features the world's highest water curtain, shooting 45 meters up in front of a giant circular structure called The Big-O which is festooned with laser-generated holograms.

Funding

All of this cost $1.8 billion to construct - a third of it funded by the South Korean government.

Besides the 80,000 new jobs created, if all goes according to plan, the Expo is supposed to pump more than $10 billion into the South Korean economy.

The South Jeolla provincial government plans to transform the site into a “marine leisure cluster” in hopes of placing this relatively unknown industrial city of 300,000 people permanently on the map of major tourist destinations in northeast Asia, if not the world.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid