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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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 Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid