While I was writing this blog post, I was enjoying my last couple of hours sipping on a cup of coffee in the sun by the sea in Yeosu and it was thus the perfect opportunity to share my thoughts on this Expo…
One might ask: How on earth did I arrive here in Yeosu? Well it’s simple: I happened to be in Seoul for a quick business trip and given I had no plans for the weekend nor any specific reason to head back to Shanghai, I decided to spend the weekend in Yeosu and visit the International Expo there. Another good reason to go was that a few friends who were actually part of the Belgian Pavilion team in the Shanghai Expo were also working in Yeosu.
Yeosu is more of a big village than a town to be honest and it is located in the South of the Korean peninsula, at the sea front, not far from the famous Jeju island where I still intend to go spend a few day to escape from Shanghai, but that is another story. The connection from Seoul is easy, normally I would have opted for the train in order to be able to see a bit more of Korea (and also to pretend I was a bit more environmental friendly as I fly every week anyways) but given the time constraint I took a 50 minutes flight from Gimpo airport to Yeosu.
When you land, you wonder a bit where you are getting to… you can’t see much around the airport, and on your way all you can see are large factories and plants (from what I could see, oil refineries mostly…) but after a short taxi ride, here it is, right in your face when you enter the city: the Expo site!
But allow me to tell you more about this expo. First of all, I guess not many of us know the difference between World and International expos. Here are the definitions used by the Burean International des Expositions:
The World Expo – one of the world’s oldest and largest international events – takes place every five years and lasts for six months. Participants include states, international organizations, civil society groups, corporations, and citizens. The size of the site is unlimited and participants may build their own pavilions. A World Expo is further characterized by the broad scope of the chosen theme, which must be of universal concern to all of humanity.
The International Expo is held between two World Expos and its duration is three months. Participants include states, international organizations, civil society groups, corporations, and citizens. The size of the site is limited to 25 hectares and the Expo organizers provide the pavilions, which are then customized by the participants. The theme of the International Expo must represent, as with the World Expo, a global concern but it must be more specialized in its scope.
For instance, the one that brought me to Asia in 2009 was a world expo, while Yeosu is an International expo, smaller in scope thus.
The theme of the Yeosu expo is “The living ocean and coast”. So basically a maritime theme… Should you want to read more about it, please have a look here: Official Website
Interesting fact: I read somewhere at the expo that while 70% of the earth is covered by oceans and water, we only know about 5% of it. Can you imagine the potential of discoveries we could do in the near future?
The Belgian pavilion actually surprises you! You wonder a little bit why they have put up those lights outside of the pavilion but once you get in, you understand why: the theme of the pavilion is “la fête foraine” with plenty of merry-go-rounds. and actually it is the only pavilion that I visited who had such an original scenography. Most of the pavilions simply show a couple of videos in large auditoriums and that’s it, you are then redirected to the souvenir shop…
The other pavilions that I enjoyed were: the UAE pavilions for the quality of its video on turtle preservation and the impact of plastic, and mostly plastic bags pollution on animals around the planet. Did you know that is is estimated that yearly 100 millions of animals die because of this? But also because when you exit this pavilion you actually feel like the UAE is full of water
The Danish pavilion was also great because it was quite educational. They really put the emphasis on renewable energy showing among other things that only 10 mega wind mills would be needed to power the entire city of Yeosu.
A pity is that I could not visit the main attractions of the Expo which were the Aquarium or Korean Pavilion among others. The reason is simple: I could not get in! Actually you have to make a reservation for each of the main attractions! But nobody told me that when I bought my ticket at the entrance and when I found out about it, everything was already fully booked… I guess next time would be a good idea to at least browse the expo website before coming… Anyway, the queues were so long that I hardly believe that I would have had the patience to wait to get in…
I thought also about my friend Etienne Michel and the robots he so passionately works on, Bull & Friz… I might seems a little bit weird and a strange place to think of robots but here is why: around the Hyundai Pavilion, I saw the most surprising robots that I have ever seen… During my time at Sony I had seen a few robots but these were moving and dancing like real humans, it was even somehow scary. My phone was off so I could not take any picture nor video, but I managed to find something online:
My hometown of Liege in Belgium happens to be running for the organization of the International Expo in 2017, and we are running against Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. I don’t know if it was by chance or on purpose but the two countries’ pavilion were right next to each other, exacerbating the competition between the two?
The theme of Liege 2017 will be “Connecting the World, linking People, better living Together”. But here is the link to their website:
and a video presenting their project:
The theme of Astana 2017 would be “Future Energy”. Funny enough for a country with such large ressources in oil, gas and fossil fuels! And again a link to their website
and a video presenting their project:
I had the impression that we did not promote enough the project of Liege 2017 in the Belgian pavilion while the Kazakhs surely put a huge budget behind their application… But I guess they need it more than we do. Let’s be honest, why would you host an expo in Astana? Nobody would go there, because it’s the middle of nowhere. Ok I know, liege is not really the sexiest place on earth, I agree. However, it is located in the heart of Europe with major European cities like Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam or even Francfort within driving distance..
To conclude, I always wonder a bit about the use of those expos: while they might be use successes you always can ask yourself about the after effects of such an expo. For a big “village” like Yeosu, what will they do with all these accomodations that were especially build for the expo, what will they do with those large pavilions etc? In Shanghai, 2 years after the expo, the expo site is still more or less empty! But in any case, I really hope that Liege will get the 2017 expo, this is really the kind of project that the city needs to reinvent itself. I look forward to it. We all should. 6 more months to wait before a decision is taken!
* thank you in Korean
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