South Korea is set to make its final presentation for the 2030 World Expo host city bid in Paris on Tuesday, bringing in high-profile figures such as former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and K-pop stars.
The host city for the globally prestigious event, overseen by the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), will be elected by member states in rounds of voting during the general assembly later in the day. Each candidate will make a final presentation prior to the voting.
South Korea's southeastern city of Busan is contending against Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Rome, Italy.
Busan's presentation will be led by Ban, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and Theresa Rah, a former spokeswoman for the bidding committee for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Ban is expected to showcase Busan's competence in transforming the World Expo into a platform addressing global issues and achieving the United Nations' sustainable development agenda for 2030.
He is also forecast to position Busan as a key symbol of South Korea's rapid economic advancement, intending to give back to the world after benefiting from international aid in the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean War.
K-pop heavyweights, such as "Gangnam Style" rapper Psy and singer Kim Jun-su, will deliver messages via video to bolster Busan's bid.
South Korean delegates and business leaders, led by Prime Minister Han, have been making their last-minute pitch in Paris to bring the event to Busan. They have been meeting with delegates from BIE member states to articulate Busan's vision.
"Until the final whistle is blown, both the government and the private sector will exert their utmost efforts," Han told reporters in Paris on late Monday.
Han also quoted President Yoon Suk Yeol as saying, "Give your best until the final whistle is blown." Yoon returned home Sunday from a trip to Europe that included a state visit to Britain and a final campaign in France to bring the 2030 World Expo to Busan.
Busan is believed to be in a tight race against Riyadh, which has conducted a significant marketing campaign from the early stages.
"It has been confirmed that in the last one or two days, Saudi Arabia has shaken the support for South Korea and we have also managed to take away support from Saudi Arabia in reverse," a ranking government official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
In an effort to escalate its last-ditch campaign, Busan has brought in Ban.
"Busan is the starting point for making sustainable development for the international community so that every country can live better. It's not the destination," Ban told reporters Monday.
The World Expo, officially known as International Registered Exhibitions, has a legacy of fostering global innovation and cultural exchange since its inaugural event in London in 1851. The event can last up to six months, with international participants constructing their pavilions on the Expo site.
Busan is bidding to host the World Expo 2030 between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2030, under the theme "Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future." The 2030 expo will follow the 2025 expo in Osaka, Japan.
Local authorities estimate the Busan Expo would bring economic benefits worth 61 trillion won (US$47 billion) and attract over 50 million tourists. More than 500,000 new jobs are also expected to be created.
At the general assembly later in the day, each of the three candidates will present their projects, followed by a secret ballot vote by government-appointed delegates representing member states.
Busan plans to transform a 3.43-square-kilometer area of partially reclaimed land at a port into a venue, according to officials. The proposed site will be accessible via a hydrogen-powered tram from a new airport on the nearby island, set to be completed in late 2029.
According to the BIE, the vote will be cast based on one vote per country by 182 BIE member state representatives during the BIE General Assembly.
In the actual voting, either 179 or 180 member states are expected to participate, as some of the member states have failed to secure voting rights after failing to pay contributions.
Any candidate winning two-thirds of the vote will be decided as the host city. If no candidate wins a two-thirds majority, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff vote. Many observers believe the final race will likely be between Busan and Riyadh. (Yonhap)