The Expo 2012 Yeosu is finally set to kick off Saturday in the southern coastal town after years of preparation by the organizing committee and central and local governments.
In addition to the KTX bullet train and cruise ships from Japan and China, new high-speed roads and bridges connecting Yeosu to the Seoul metropolitan area, South Gyeongsang Province and the western part of South Jeolla Province have been opened, making access to the waterfront expo site easier.
“We have conducted rehearsals on April 28, May 2 and May 5 with about 200,000 visitors and fixed several problems we found in the exhibit hall reservation system, landscaping and cleaning,” Kang Dong-suk, chairman of the expo organizing committee, told The Korea Herald in an e-mail interview.
“After rehearsing major performances such as the Big O Show and shows above the water, checking on our guide and assistance services, we will hold the opening ceremony Friday evening before the official opening on Saturday.”
The Yeosu Expo, which will run for three months through Aug. 12, distinguishes itself by being the first world fair to be held on the water.
Previous expos in Portugal’s Lisbon and Spain’s Zaragoza had been themed around the ocean, but the Yeosu Expo will be the first to have the ocean as its venue.
The entire expo site stretches out alongside the sea with promenades and exhibit spaces extending all the way to the island of Odong-do and the seawalls.
The Theme Pavilion, the floating stage and the water screen named “The O” are all on the water. Some 8,000 cultural and arts performances will be staged on the ocean as well.
“Another aspect that makes the Yeosu Expo unique is that it will be a more people-oriented expo centered around the spectators rather than the buildings and the technologies,” Kang said.
“Visitors will be able to experience many of the exhibits and performances with their five senses instead of simply viewing them.”
For instance, while watching video images at the Theme Pavilion, spectators can meet with the actual performers in the video. They can see images of whales grow on the light-emitting-diode Expo Digital Gallery above their heads by feeding them text messages. They can also download images from the gallery.
Visitors will be invited to take part in a traditional circle dance at the Korea Pavilion, and the floating stage will turn into a club every night with DJs spinning the turntables and visitors dancing.
Kang has vowed to prevent rip-offs often seen at local festivals and impress visitors with the quality of food served at the expo site.
“We will surprise people with both the taste and the price of food sold at the expo site,” the 74-year-old former minister of land said.
“The committee staff have tasted all the food and checked on the sanitary conditions of the restaurants.”
The committee scrapped a previous plan to earn 11 billion won in leases for restaurants, and decided to share restaurants’ profits in the form of a running guarantee.
If the restaurants don’t make any profit, the committee will compensate them, Kang said.
In addition to allowing the reservation of expo tickets, exhibit halls and accommodation via mobile phones and the Internet, the committee has paid extra attention to visitors’ convenience.
The expo site will have more bathrooms than recommended by international standards, especially for women and the disabled.
To keep visitors from rain or strong sunlight, shades will cover more than 40 percent of the human traffic areas within the expo site.
More than 70 street performances will entertain people as they wait for entrance to exhibit halls. Visitors can make a single trip outside the expo site a day to dine or tour other parts of Yeosu.
To ease traffic jams within Yeosu, travelers will be encouraged to leave their cars in parking lots off the Yeosu highway interchange and transfer to free shuttle buses. The waiting time will be less than 10 minutes as up to 900 shuttle buses will be operated each day, according to Kang.
“Yeosu lacks facilities for accommodation, but about 136,000 rooms are available within a two-hour zone around Yeosu,” he said.
The committee recommends 73 tour courses linking the nearby Namhae, Hadong, Suncheon, Gwangyang, Gurye, Goheung, Mokpo and Busan.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)