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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora