South Korea’s Busan Mayor promotes city’s bid to host 2030 World Expo

Busan Mayor, Park Heong-joon (left) meets South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Naledi Pandor in Pretoria on February 27. Park presented the minister with Boogi, Busan's seagull mascot. Photo: Busan Metropolitan City

Busan Mayor, Park Heong-joon (left) meets South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Naledi Pandor in Pretoria on February 27. Park presented the minister with Boogi, Busan's seagull mascot. Photo: Busan Metropolitan City

Published Mar 8, 2023


South Korea’s second largest city, Busan, has again turned to Africa for help in its bid to host the 2030 World Expo - in the true proverbial meaning of “a friend in need is a friend indeed”.

Busan plans to attract more than 40 million people to its shores for the World Expo, if awarded the bid. The World Expo is a platform for global leaders to exchange ideas and tackle challenges such as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the world since 2019; resulting in millions of casualties including in South Africa and neighbouring Lesotho.

Park Heong-joon, Busan Metropolitan Mayor and Special Envoy of President Yoon Suk-Yeol paid a visit to South Africa and Lesotho as part of their mission to strengthen trade and economic ties – including seeking these countries’ support for it to host the World Expo.

Park began his official visit in Lesotho where he met King Letsie III, Prime Minister Sam Matekane and various high profile people in the Kingdom.

In South Africa, the Korean delegation held talks with the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Dr Naledi Pandor.

The Korean delegation chose Africa as its first destination this year and the first-ever international trip to lobby support and win the votes of member countries that have a “one country-one-vote” decision on who gets awarded the bid in November 2023.

Detailing the country’s relationship with South Africa, Park said Korea remembers and cherishes the assistance from African countries during the Korean War, saying “we will support the success of Africa, our partner as proven in history”.

The partnership between Korea and Africa dates back 72 years, when more than 4 000 young men and women in uniform from South Africa and Ethiopia participated in the Korean War and stood by “our side to safeguard peace and freedom in Korea”, Park recollected.

Busan, which would be the host city of the World Expo if it wins the bid, is home to the United Nations Memorial Cemetery (UNMC) in Korea. Every year, the City of Busan hosts commemorative events to honour fallen heroes. “The names of 159 soldiers from Africa are carved on the Wall of Remembrance in UNMCK to remember and honour their service and support they received from them. “Thirty-seven soldiers from South Africa and 122 from Ethiopia,” Park said.

He admits that the contribution of the two counties had led to Korea making strides as one of the world’s top 10 economic powerhouses. He said during the Korean War, Busan, then home to 300 000 people, embraced 1 million war refugees.

Busan Mayor, Park Heong-joon (left) meets Angolan President Joao Lourenco in Luanda on March 1. Photo: Busan Metropolitan Government

As a result, the country achieved a great transformation within the national economy and its industries. “We aim to pave the way for the progress of humanity by hosting the 2030 World Expo in Busan. We aim to send our unwavering support and assistance to ensure the success of Africa, our partner as proven in history. This is why I am confident that our dear partner will join our country towards the 2030 Busan World Expo.”

Park said that their overarching theme was “Transforming Our World, Navigating Towards a Better Future” – adding that it was an acknowledgement that the world needed “a dramatic and fundamental change to address global challenges and move towards a better future.” He said their theme recognises that they need to make a dramatic and fundamental transformation as an opportunity to move towards a better future by addressing the world’s complex and diverse challenges, including climate change, pandemics, the dehumanising effect of technology, widening disparities among countries, regions and different social classes, and threats of war.

Park said they selected three target goals, which would be their primary task to host the World Expo:

  • Sustainable Living with Nature - aims to transform the world to achieve carbon neutrality by promoting harmony between human and nature.
  • Technology for Humanity – aims to achieve an innovative digital transformation in which everyone enjoys the benefits of technological progress, and technology and humans can grow together.
  • Platform Caring and Sharing – aims to attain a social transformation to weather social conflicts, co-operate creatively and collaborate together.
  • Park was adamant that if awarded the bid, his country would work together to address challenges individual countries were facing, saying they also aimed to convince the world that supporting Korea would bring more tangible benefits with a mid to long-term perspective in mind.
  • (Desert countries) Seawater desalination as a solution to water shortages.
  • (African countries) Medical technology co-operation to address public health challenges.

“We believe that Korea is a unique country capable of working on such a comprehensive strategy, as we have sufficient competitiveness and capacity in all sectors and don’t have any glaring specific area that is lacking. That is why this is a hidden card of our bid strategy,” he said.

Outlining their plans to host the Expo for the benefit the domestic and international community, Park said: “Internationally, crises such as climate change and pandemics should be discussed in 2030; a decisive year which coincides with the target year of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a milestone to make a joint response to climate change, which will determine the future direction of human civilisation.

“Countries should discuss how the whole world can undergo a transformation by working together in solidarity and transform the crisis into an opportunity. We believe that this goal can be achieved by Korea, a bridging country which developed from one of the world’s most impoverished countries into a top 10 economic powerhouse in the world,” Park emphasised. He also reiterated that the country was ideal for international visitors, saying: “Busan, the city that I live in, is such a marvellous city.

“Busan has seven beaches in the city, as well as mountains, rivers and hot springs scattered throughout the city.

“The city has developed itself into an outstanding city with beautiful nature and convenient transportation,” he said. Park added that they want to attract 40 million people to Busan – promising them adequate security and plenty of accommodation, mostly in five-star hotels situated near the beaches. He also said that they plan to construct a new international airport and an underground train, which would ferry delegates from the airport to the World Expo venue.

“In Busan, festivals are hosted throughout the year. During the Expo, Busan’s calendar will be full of festivals, including the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF, the largest film festival in Asia), Busan Fireworks Festival, Busan One Asia Festival (BOF), and G-Star (a global gaming exhibition),” he said.

Park also said that National Geographic magazine had picked Busan as one of the 25 breathtaking places and experiences for 2023.

As the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) - the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, since 1931 - is due to visit Busan on an Enquiry Mission in April, Park revealed that they plan to focus their capacity on the Expo campaign and establishing the necessary infrastructure.

Busan Mayor, Park Heong-joon (centre, left) poses with a group of ambassadors and senior government officials from African countries during the 5th Korea-African Forum in Busan in March last year. Photo: Supplied

“The Enquiry Mission visit is one of the BIE’s official procedures to assess viability, feasibility, government’s willingness and the host city’s eagerness to host the Expo.

“The City of Busan will designate an Expo Week during the Enquiry Mission visit to encourage voluntary participation from as many citizens as possible, and to make Busan a city full of excitement, provide a welcome atmosphere, and showcase its eagerness for the Expo,” Park said. He also said that welcome and farewell events, programmes on the Expo theme, sub themes and campaign programmes would be planned as citizen participatory events, so that the Enquiry Mission would be able to fully see and experience citizens’ eagerness and willingness for the Expo in every corner of Busan during the visit.

“In particular, we aim to leave a strong impression and touch the hearts of the Enquiry Mission by hosting a firework festival expressing our sincere wish to host the Expo. “Furthermore, the city government is developing various ideas to introduce the advantages and attractiveness of the North Port, our potential Expo site, which is easily accessible, symbolic and also eco-friendly.

“The city government is also developing measures to allow the Enquiry Mission to experience Busan’s dynamic spirit and atmosphere with our mild oceanic climate and cherry blossoms in full bloom. Cutting-edge technologies and immersive content will be adopted throughout the Expo site. We will also highlight the location of the North Port, which gives us another strong advantage,” Park said. He also emphasised that the government was not alone in its mission to attract the Expo to Busan, saying “Korea as a whole, including the Korean government, National Assembly, and private sector is ‘one team’ in united spirits.”

Korea is competing with Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Rome, Italy; and Odesa, Ukraine to host the Expo.


The Korean government looks set to make major investments in South Africa and Lesotho - in the field of energy for South Africa, and a multimillion injection in education projects in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Park identified areas where his country could assist the two countries as well as Angola, which was also part of his visits’ schedule.

Speaking exclusively to Independent Media in South Africa, Park said South Africa was experiencing an energy crisis and Korea was in a position to assist it to deal with the problem in their bid to promote good co-operation and trade relations. “We need to co-operate in the economic field. South Africa is the only member country of the G-20 countries in Africa. We are also part of the G-20. We need to build strong ties with it, including in the fields of energy.

“We also need co-operation in the field of manufacturing. Our major companies such as Samsung and Hyundai want to expand their businesses in South Africa. South Africa is a core centre for investment. We need to work with it,” Park said.

He said they are also considering the possibility of assisting South Africa with hydro fuel cells, including dealing with carbon emission.

Park also said that his country had an electricity-robust nuclear plant, which could assist with the transmission of electricity to South Africa. He also announced that his country was going to invest $50 million to help in the transformation of Eskom and to help to deal with its problems.

Park, however, did not divulge details about his bilateral meeting with Minister Pandor, but expressed hope that the country was ready for any investment coming from Korea. He confirmed that Korea had formally requested South Africa to support their bid to host the World Expo, but said that no final decision had been made. He, however, did mention that Korean companies were planning on establishing a digital academy in South Africa that would improve the country’s ICT and other related projects.

“Last week, I visited Lesotho. I met the king as well as the Prime Minister of Lesotho and his Ministers. We also talked about co-operation between us in the fields of education, food production, water plants, and the construction of an airport in Lesotho,” he said.

Park also revealed that his country had donated $1 million towards vocational training in Lesotho.