The Korean city of Busan is one of the front-runners to host World Expo 2023. Its mayor, Park Heong-joon, spoke to New African to explain why its candidacy could be of special interest to African countries.
New African: Why is Busan the ideal place to stage Expo 2030?
Park Heong-joon: There are many elements. First of all, I’d like to stress that Busan has a unique history in contemporary modernisation. In the 1950s Korea had a civil war and received money and medical support from many countries. In the 1960s Korea was the one of the poorest countries in the world with just $100 per capita. Since that time, Korea has achieved rapid industrialisation and economic growth. Nowadays, Korea is the 10th ranking economic powerhouse in the world.
I think that would have been impossible without the help of the international community. Korea is the only country from aid recipient to aid donor since 1945. So now is the time to start paying back our gratitude to the international community. The World Expo will be a crucial momentum for Korea to be a one of the pivotal countries contributing to the peace and mutual prosperity of the world.
That’s a great message.
Park Heong-joon: And another element is that Busan is an open-minded city. We have inclusiveness of other cultures, different cultures and countries, because during the war, 1m people came to Busan. At that time, our population was just 300,000 people. They stayed and live there and they made the new industrial base in Busan.
And Busan is also the second biggest trans-shipment port in the world. It is already a global logistics hub and the global hub city in Asia. So we can accept all kinds of cultures and countries and ideologies in our city. The idea of World Expo is education, innovation, cooperation for a better future. So Busan is very good city to perform those functions of Expo.
How are things progressing in terms of bidding for the World Expo?
Park Heong-joon: The 170 member countries will vote for the host country in November this year. Each member country has one vote. Busan ( Korea), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Rome (Itaky), and Odessa (Ukraine) are campaigning to host World Expo. So I think that the Korea has very unique planning for hosting 2030 World Expo 2030. It is called the Busan Initiative.
In previous years World Expo was the platform for showcasing cutting-edge technologies and commodities in the history of modernisation. However, nowadays the character of expo should be transformed into a platform of new technology, a solution platform for the challenges we are facing.
The Korean government and Busan City are trying to create a new kind of cooperation with each partner countries. In past years, the World Expo was the platform for advanced countries because they have cutting-edge technology and new companies and the developing countries could be alienated from the expo platform. We have launched the fusion initiative as the solution platform to pick up the very specific agenda and create cooperation with Korea, which has a wide range of experiences in the process of our economic growth.
So we can cooperate to find the solution. We can help them and we can do the collaborate work to find the solution, which can be forwater problems or energy problems or food problems and medical problems, technological problems.
So if we host the World Expo, we will provide a wide space for that solution platform so that each developing country actively participates in that problem. And I think that the process to host the 2030 World Expo in terms of Korea provides a very good opportunity to bolster bilateral relationships with developing countries, especially with African countries. In the process of our economic growth, we didn’t expand our capabilities to African countries. So nowadays we are trying to contact and connect and cooperate with each African country.
Why should African countries support Busan?
Park Heong-joon: African countries, the African continent with its 54 countries and 1.3bn people is a great market for Korea business. And Africa has a huge potential for the future. I think that Africa is the future of our planet. So it is time to expand. The World Expo will be the crucial momentum to strengthen and further our relationship. Nowadays Korea is acting as one team. The leaders of national government, Busan City and Korean business, are one team and they are campaigning together.
The potential of cooperation between Korea and each partnering African country has huge potential. If we go through this process, it will lead to a very positive and active result and substantial benefits for Korea and African countries.
You were appointed as mayor of Busan in 2021. What are your major responsibilities?
Park Heong-joon: Busan is the second largest city in Korea. We have 3.5m people. And Busan has the second biggest trans-shipment port in the world. My dream is to make Busan a global hub city in Asia and the world. Yeah. The 2030 Expo will give us an excellent opportunity to boost our economy and the quality of life for our citizens. If we succeed in hosting 2030 World Expo, we will have great power to promote the diversity project.
However, I have the strong duty to pay back the gratitude to international community. So I went around the world over the last two years. I met a lot of leaders in each country. I found the open diplomacy of Busan will contribute to bolstering the bilateral ties between Korea and other countries and Pusan City and major global cities around the world. We have almost 40 sister and friendship cities in the world and we want to expand this to African countries. We have already sister cities in Africa, such as Cape Town and others in Angola and Tanzania. So will make the effort to expand our sister and partner cities to African countries. Through that process, we want to expand our business to invest in African countries and create economic and social projects.
What are your challenges for that?
Park Heong-joon: The most important thing thing is to win the bid. So we have to get the votes from partner countries. So the yeah, I’m confident that we win this campaign.