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International Events Come to Korea

clock03-10-2010, 08:20 PM
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South Korea campaigns for global attention in frenzy of international event bids

13 December 2007

YEOSU, South Korea (AP) - The stars of track and field will come in 2011. World innovations will be showcased in 2012. And then Asia's top athletes will flock here to compete in 2014.

This small nation has embarked on a frenzy of bids for international events displaying its pride in building one of the world's top economies from the ashes of the Korean War. For the next decade, it seems the world should simply set up shop in South Korea.

Last week, the sleepy port town of Yeosu (pronounced yoh-soo) secured its place on the world stage by winning the right to host the 2012 Expo.

Other events this year include the city of Incheon, west of Seoul, which was awarded the 2014 Asian Games. Daegu, in the southeast, was selected to stage the 2011 World Athletics Championships.

South Korea lost its most high-profile contest this year, with the mountain city of Pyeongchang failing in its campaign for the 2014 Winter Olympics that was awarded to Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

It was the second failed Olympic bid for Pyeongchang, but the city remains undeterred and said it will vie to host the 2018 games.

Yeosu originally bid for the 2010 Expo but lost to Shanghai, and the 2012 event is a smaller type of exhibition staged between the grander world fairs now held every five years. The events are known for showcases of innovation, such as the 19th century debut of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and world-changing technologies like the telephone.

Yeosu is aiming to create an Eiffel Tower-worthy attraction of its own, according to Kang Moo-hyun, minister of maritime affairs and fisheries who spearheaded government lobbying efforts for the event.

Some ideas under consideration include an aquarium where visitors could "walk into the ocean" to view marine life, he told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

Kang noted past world fairs had helped cement the status of world-leading countries such as France and Japan.

"We hope to advertise the Korea brand and join the ranks of advanced world nations," he said.

The country still looks back to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul as its debut on the world stage. Since then, South Korea has also been a site of other marquee sporting events, co-hosting the 2002 World Cup with Japan.

"It's a symbol of the arrival of a country," said Michael Breen, longtime Korea watcher and author of "The Koreans."

He said the international bids show the "Olympian thinking" of local politicians who see the economic trickle-down effects from such events to spur local development.

"This is a way to put their city on the map -- probably the most dramatic way that it can be done," he said.

"Korea is keen on making the statement that it is a global player," said Jeffrey Bohn, a Seoul-based consultant for public relations firm Synergy Hill and Knowlton who has worked on several Korean bids.

"It is the 11th-largest economy and rightly feels it should play an increasing role in the international community commensurate with this status," he said.

Yeosu's claim to fame is as the home base of Korea's great military hero, the 16th century's Admiral Yi Sun-sin. Yi is known for his naval victories against Japanese invaders where he deployed an armored "turtle ship," and a replica of the ship is moored off the Yeosu coast.

The city spans butterfly-like across fingers of land from the southern end of the Korean peninsula, 280 miles from Seoul, or about a 40-minute flight. Ahead of the 2012 Expo, high-speed tracks are being built to cut nearly in half the travel time by rail from Seoul to three hours.

The city plans to spend $19 billion on infrastructure for the Expo, including $7 billion at the event site. It estimates some 90,000 jobs will be created to help serve nearly 8 million visitors.

The event will be centered on the theme of "the living ocean and coast," and focus on efforts to combat global warming and rising sea levels. Ahead of 2012, forums will be held to draft a declaration to be adopted at the Expo to urge cooperation between nations and international organizations on the issue.

The city of 300,000 is also taking care that the facilities here will remain useful after the fair closes. Housing built for event staff will be sold to residents and a pavilion will be turned into a maritime museum.

Yeosu is considered a tourism draw for its marine parks that include more than 300 islands, lying beyond strands of white buoys floating close to shore that are home to abalone, oyster and shellfish farms.


Associated Press writer Jae-yeon Lim contributed to this report.
clock07-07-2012, 05:20 PM
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