November 29, 2023 11:57
Korea on Tuesday failed in its bid to host the 2030 World Expo in Busan to rival Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
At the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) on the outskirts of Paris, Busan received a mere 29 votes against Riyadh's 119 and Rome's 17.
The odds were stacked doubly against Korea due to the vast oil wealth Saudi Arabia was able to lavish on poorer member countries and the debacle of the World Scout Jamboree in southwestern Korea earlier this year, when participants had to be evacuated from inadequate facilities in record heat.
Korea pulled out all the stops, with major conglomerates pitching in to promote the bid and a star-studded roster of speakers in the final presentation. The 20-minute presentation in English featured appearances by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won, Busan Mayor Park Hyung-jun, and Rah Seung-yun, better known as Theresa Rah, who became popular for her winning pitch in favor of Pyeongchang as the venue for the Winter Olympics in 2018.
A senior BIE official said, "In almost all previous votes for the host city of the expo, the city that ranked first in the first round also secured first place in the second round. There were expectations that Busan would break the precedent, but it did not happen."
Han expressed gratitude to the BIE member countries that supported Busan in a press conference immediately after the result was announced. "Although the dramatic reversal that everyone hoped for did not happen, the global diplomatic network built this time will be a significant asset for the national interest and economic horizons of Korea," he said.
Only six countries have hosted all three major global events -- the World Cup, the Olympics and the World Expo -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S., but for now the hattrick eludes Korea.
In a rare press briefing Wednesday, President Yoon Suk-yeol said, "I enthusiastically pursued the bid at the wish of the entire nation, but unfortunately it did not succeed." He expressed thanks to those who poured all their efforts into the bid and apologized for the flop. "Many predictions seemed to go awry," he added. "Please understand that everything was due to my shortcomings."
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