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South Korea banks on Kenya, other African countries on Expo

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South Korea's Prime Minister Han Duck-soo
South Korea's Prime Minister Han Duck-soo

South Korean government is banking on the support of African countries to clinch hosting rights for the World Expo, pitching a “bridge” between developed and developing nations.

South Korea Prime Minister Han Duck-soo was this week in Paris marketing his country’s prowess to host the World Expo in 2030 in its coastal city of Busan, telling a press conference his country was investing everything in it.

“Busan is more attractive and diverse than cities it is competing with,” he said on Thursday, promising that his country will deliver based on a “well-developed, well-placed and well-experienced” Expo in 2030.

“The Republic of Korea is a country that can serve as a bridge between developing and developed countries,” Han said in a pitch for Busan to host the World Expo.

Granted by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), World Expo is traditionally a gathering of nations to present their achievements in technology, as well as solutions to current global problems.

South Korea is seeking individual votes from African countries including Kenya when the decision comes up for the vote sometimes next year. Each member state of the BIE carries one vote and winners must garner at least two thirds.

The General Assembly of the BIE was also an occasion to pitch his country’s ability to host the event that often runs for as long as five months.

“Nobody doubts Busan’s capability,” he told journalists at the end of the assembly, saying that the country has nurtured a tradition of “working together on education, innovation and cooperation with the world.”

According to the PM, a vote for South Korea will be suitable because his country has laid elaborate plans to present an expo under the theme: Transforming our world, navigating toward a better future.

In their bid, tabled last year, Busan city Mayor Park Hyung-joon then said South Korea seeks to showcase how a better future will rely on relationships between humans, technology and nature and the need “to make a world-wide and harmonious future amid unprecedented changes such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Coronavirus pandemic.”

South Korea, says it hopes to promote high-tech including next-generation semiconductors, artificial intelligence and robots, while relating these innovations with climate change and how to respond to the problem.

The government of President Yoon Suk-Yeol, inaugurated in May, has said it will put everything in preparing for the 2030 expo should member states vote his country in.

After he took power, he created Busan Expo transition team to continue preparations in transition and reoganised the bidding team to work under the Prime Minister

South Korea must defeat two other countries seeking hosting rights: Italy and Saudi Arabia. It has presented its bid as a platform to solve problems facing mankind, such as the spread of Covid-19, climate, and environmental crisis,” according to a bid brochure publicised to member states recently. It has promised a vision for “a major transformation” based on a ‘de-carbon’ economy and high-tech sector, at its venue of Bukhang Port in Busan.

At least 32 million visitors could visit Busan, bringing it at least $36 million.

The World Expo, now 150 years old, now has 170 member states to the BIE. BIE began vetting applicants for the 2030 hosting rights six months ago, as is tradition when hosts are elected at least six years to the due date.