Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

WORLD EXPO 2030 BUSAN: The Korean Coastal City Ready to Dazzle the World

The 2030 Busan Expo is not the first international exhibition hosted by South Korea

Tue 01 Nov 2022 | 11:25 AM
Mohamed Wadie

The 2030 Busan Expo is not the first international exhibition hosted by South Korea. The country hosted Expos in Daejeon and Yeosu in 1993 and 2012, respectively. 

In June 2021, South Korea submitted a letter of candidature to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) for the hosting of the World Expo 2030 in Busan. The South Korean government is making an all-out effort to win against Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the leading competitor.


South Korea’s world famous boy band BTS was appointed as the honorary ambassadors for the 2030 Busan World Expo, with a proposal letter from the Busan mayor to President Yoon Suk-yeol asking to exclude the members of BTS from mandatory military service of at least 18 months. In South Korea, avoiding conscription service or getting exemption from mandatory military service is a very sensitive issue.

South Korea is also leveraging its business networks to win the bid. South Korea’s top conglomerates banded together to form the World Expo Bidding Committee, a business-led civilian organization made of 11 companies, including Samsung, SK, and Hyundai Motors.

According to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the Inter-governmental Organization in charge of overseeing and regulating the events, Expos, often known as a World’s Fair in the United States, are all international exhibitions that last more than three weeks and are of a non-commercial nature.

In the beginning, Expos were platforms to showcase innovative inventions and new technologies such as the telephone, the automobile, the typewriter, the TV, and the elevator. For example, Alexander Graham Bell revealed the telephone at the 1876 Expo held in Philadelphia, and the television, invented by Philo Taylor Farnsworth in 1927, was showcased at the 1939 New York World Expo.

There are four types of Expos organized under the BIE: World Expos, Specialized Expos, Horticultural Expos, and the Triennale di Milano. Both the Daejeon and Yeosu Expos were “Specialized Expos.” If Busan is selected when the BIE General Assembly meets in November 2023, South Korea will host the “World Expo” event for the first time. Moreover, South Korea would be the seventh country in the world to have hosted three mega international events – the Olympics, the World Cup, and the World Expo – joining France, the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, and Italy.

Expos provide an opportunity to celebrate major historic events. In addition to the 1889 Paris Expo, which was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, Philadelphia hosted one in 1876 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Independence of the United States. The Daejeon Expo in 1993 marked the 100th year of Korea’s first participation in the international exposition.

King Gojong accepted an official invitation to participate in the 1893 Chicago Expo with high hopes of changing Korea’s image overseas, which at the time was associated with words like “isolated,” “reclusive,” and “hermit.”

 The Joseon Dynasty, which lasted almost 500 years, was on the verge of collapse as the newly modernized Meiji Japan began encroaching on the Korean Peninsula with colonizing efforts. 

After visiting the Vienna World Exposition in 1873, where the participation of Japan ignited “Japonism” fever in Europe, King Gojong thought the Expo could help the weakening Joseon to survive longer by garnering international support for its independence.

Similarly, the Korean Empire, which lasted only 13 years between the collapse of the Joseon Dynasty in 1897 and Japan’s annexation in 1910, participated in the 1900 Paris Expo in order to introduce the empire to the world and be recognized by the international community as an independent country. Participation in the Expo was one of the desperate efforts of the Korean Empire to independently solve external challenges and stabilize the international situation surrounding the Korean peninsula.

Expos help to boost the host country’s public image and national prestige. On a more practical level, hosting the Expo is expected to bring huge economic benefits, especially in creating jobs and boosting tourism. South Korea estimates that hosting the 2030 World Expo will generate a massive 61 trillion won ($44 billion) and create 500,000 jobs. The 43 trillion won worth of production induced is four times that generated by the 2002 World Cup and two times the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The 2030 Busan Expo was placed on the national agenda in 2019 under the progressive Moon Jae-in administration. Even though the Moon administration and the conservative People Power Party (PPP) had a contentious relationship, then-PPP presidential candidate Yoon included the Busan Expo among his campaign pledges. At the press conference marking his first 100 days in office, Yoon said he would make every effort to convince the BIE member countries to accept Busan’s bid. 

The 2030 Busan Expo is getting full bipartisan support in South Korea. During the 129 years since the Joseon first participated in the Chicago Expo in 1893 – and was mocked for exhibiting knocked together “Corean junk” – South Korea has made astonishing achievements. At the heart of the Expo movement is a fundamental faith in the power of technology and human ingenuity to make life better for everyone. Koreans have embraced and lived that faith for over 30 years. There is no more appropriate place in the world today to host a forum for finding solutions to the fundamental challenges facing humanity than South Korea. The country is ready to take a leading role in “Transforming our world, Navigating toward a better future” as the 2030 Busan Expo’s slogan suggests.

Four countries have submitted competing candidatures to organise World Expo 2030: the Republic of Korea (Busan), Italy (Rome), Ukraine (Odesa), and Saudi Arabia (Riyadh). The project examination phase for World Expo 2030 is currently underway, with each candidate having submitted a detailed candidature dossier to the BIE. The host country of World Expo 2030 will be elected by BIE Member States, gathered in a General Assembly set to take place in November 2023, on the principle of one country, one vote.

In July 2022, World Expo 2030 Bid Committee Busan appointed Korean superstars BTS—RM, Jung-kook, Jimin, V, Suga, JHope, and Jin—to be honorary ambassadors for the World Expo, commencing its promotions to host the global event.

 Korean coastal city of Busan is ready to Dazzle the world


Busan boasts of beautiful scenes with its seven beaches, seven bridges, and 10 mountains.

Today, with an international passenger ferry terminal and nine container terminals across four locations, Busan Port has been transformed into a modern-day gateway to prosperity. With this, the hosting of the exposition at the Busan North Port as the proposed site will actually coincide with the 150th anniversary of its opening.

With its successful transformation, Busan now boasts of a Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) of 83 trillion Korean Won (or approximately $60 billion). As a 10 million-strong mega city, it’s also the second largest transshipment port, seventh largest container port, and 13th largest MICE city in the world.

Busan has unparalleled experience in hosting international events and conferences best exemplified by 2002 Asian Games, 2005 APEC Summit, and 2014 and 2019 Korea-ASEAN Special Summit. It’s also home to cultural events including Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), G-Star Game Show, Busan Motor Show, Rock Festival, Fireworks Festival, and Korean concerts with millions of visitors from all over the world.

If Busan wins the bid in 2030, Korea will become the seventh country in the world to have held the three mega-events along with the Olympic Games and World Cup

According to World Expo, officially known as International Registered Exhibitions, it is “a global gathering of nations dedicated to finding solutions to pressing challenges of our time by offering a journey inside a universal theme through engaging and immersive activities.” It is held every five years, with specialized expositions in between. Host cities in the past have welcomed tens of millions of visitors, prompting them to build megastructures that forever changed the course of their city.

In its bid, Busan’s main theme for the exposition is “Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future.” Under this theme, World Expo 2030 Busan plans to address three global challenges the world is facing today: climate change, downsides of digital transformations, and inequality among nations. The three sub-themes are “Sustainable Living with Nature,” “Technology for Humanity,” and “Platform for Caring and Sharing.”

“The Korean government, private sector, and Busan City’s local government are joining hands in order to have a successful hosting of the expo,” said Lee Seung-Woo, director of Overseas Expo Outreach Division, when asked what are the chances of Busan winning the bid. “Also we do have successful global businesses, practices, and diplomacy as well. By gathering all those successful examples, and then exchanging thoughts and ideas, we are making our best efforts to convince the BIE (Bureau International des Expositions) nations by joining such efforts.”

Busan is set to share solutions to problems facing mankind

When asked about other sustainable practices for the expo, Lee mentioned, “We are currently working on technologies, and research and development regarding climate change, so that we could introduce new solutions and technology regarding climate change and also in order to move towards sustainable development. We are making efforts to transform our industry structure as well, for instance, using less coal energies.”

“The expo will draw many tourists and foreign international visitors as well and that will provide many opportunities for Koreans,” he continued. “We do have national events that will host many global delegations as well as business delegations as well. So we expect to create economic opportunities which will lead to the income of Korean people as well.”

In time for the expo, Busan is set to build more tourism infrastructures including additional modes of transportation, cruise ships, and a new international airport. These planned projects will also push through even beyond the hosting of World Expo 2030.

At its core, Busan is set to share solutions to problems facing mankind at World Expo 2030, conveying the hopes for starting a journey toward a brighter future for all. Busan wishes to transform with the world in 2030.