South Korea set to launch RM30b expo
SEOUL, May 11 — After four years of work and US$10 billion (RM30 billion) in investment, an international expo will open tomorrow at a glittering hi-tech venue on the site of a former dusty cement terminal in South Korea.
A total of 104 nations and 10 international organisations will stage exhibitions over the next three months in the city of Yeosu under the theme of “The Living Ocean and Coast”.
Organisers hope for about 10 million visitors, including up to 500,000 foreigners mainly from China and Japan, to the small south coast city.
They predict the event will create some 80,000 jobs and bring economic benefits worth 19 trillion won (RM51 billion) — outweighing more than 11 trillion won spent on the site and new hotels and upgrading roads and railways.
Yeosu, with a scenic coastline and hundreds of nearby islands, is showcasing marine conservation and green technology with its expo.
“Have you ever thought that the roar of the waves may be the sound of the sea groaning?” it asks visitors, citing overfishing, pollution and reckless development.
“We want to join with you to find the solutions,” reads a message at the US pavilion. A screen with video images of the US coastline stresses that oceans are the Earth’s life support systems.
At its entrance an image projected on a water screen shows US President Barack Obama expressing commitment to protecting marine ecosystems and resources.
France focuses on the importance of fresh water resources, displaying the transformation of its mascot “Sogeumi” from a salt water drop into fresh water to suggest that desalination is one of the solutions.
Australia, the world’s largest island continent, emphasises harmony between humankind and oceans through a huge multimedia sculpture depicting the swell of the ocean and a variety of other images.
Monaco, one of the world’s smallest nations, has a digital image of an endangered Mediterranean monk seal.
During a press tour on Wednesday, work was continuing frantically to complete some exhibition halls. Chief organiser Kang Dong-Suk said at least three countries could not open their pavilions until tomorrow.
The “Big-O”, a 48m-tall round steel structure, greets visitors to the 25-hectare site.
“This is our symbolic structure where various cultural performances will be held,” said Kang Hyun-Joo, the organising committee spokeswoman.
It features cannons shooting jets of water and flame generators. Colourful hologram images and light shows will be projected on a giant water curtain and dancers will perform on a stage floating in front of the Big-O.
Abandoned cement silos have been converted into a 67m-high observation tower including a giant pipe organ.
The Aqua Planet aquarium has a massive tank displaying 280 species of fish and other marine life including beluga whales and South American sea lions as well as an Amazon eco-terrarium.
Pavilions built by the Korean government and its big firms present a vision of the country as a dominant player in marine development and showcase digital and robot technology.
Small robots play football and dance at the pavilion of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. A humanoid robot greets visitors with smiles, and robots shaped like crabs, snakes and starfish are on display.
The ceiling of the international pavilion features a 218m-long LED screen displaying marine life and giving visitors the sensation of walking under the sea.
Expo 2012 Yeosu is being held between the headline World Expos, which are staged every five years. The last was in Shanghai in 2010.
To solve the shortage of hotel rooms, a chartered cruise ship will be anchored in the port by the end of this month to accommodate foreign visitors, said chairman Kang.
A ferry terminal capable of handling six cruise ships has been built next to the site to accommodate tourists from China and Japan. — AFP-Relaxnews