South Korea

World Expo 2030 Busan: Frontiers of Radical Transformation in the East

– BTS holds free concert to support South Korea’s bid to host World Expo
– Busan taps K-pop metaverse to win 2030 World Expo bid, launches metaverse platform, ZEPETO.

World Expo 2023 Busan collaborates with BTS and Naver's Metaverse ZEPETO. Music Press Asia

Korea is planning to host World Expo 2030 in Busan, a modern port city, under the theme “Transforming our World, Navigating to a Better Future”. Over a period of six months, from 1 May to 31 October 2030, Busan’s north port area – if they win the bid – will be an area that will host an international attendance of an event that began during the Industrial Revolution.

Two weeks ago on October 15, the K-pop boy band, BTS reunited for a concert in Busan in support of South Korea’s bid to host the World Expo 2030 in the southern port city.

The free concert — Titled ‘BTS in BUSAN’ — drew an audience of about 52,000 people to a stadium, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

A total of 100,000 were expected to visit the stadium and other areas, according to Busan Metropolitan City authorities, with some fans watching the event live on large screens set up at several places around Busan.

In July, BTS was named the official ambassador for the World Expo 2030 in Busan, over 300 km (190 miles) southeast of the capital Seoul.

The concert followed the seven-member band’s announcement of a break in June from group musical activities to pursue solo projects, raising questions about the band’s future.

With BTS’ oldest member, Jin, who is turning 30 next year, facing South Korea’s mandatory military service, the country’s defence minister said in August that BTS might still be able to perform overseas while serving in the military.

Under a 2019 revision of the law, globally recognised K-pop stars were allowed to put off their service until 30. Military service is hugely controversial in South Korea where all able-bodied men aged between 18 and 28 must fulfil their duties as part of efforts to defend against nuclear-armed North Korea.

Futuristic Busan

In early October, Busan opened a virtual space on Naver Z’s ZEPETO metaverse to promote the city in its efforts to host the World Expo. According to Naver, Zepeto recorded over 20 million monthly average users in March this year.

Named the ‘2030 World Expo X4 Entertainment World, the virtual world in ZEPETO will resemble the port city and aims to attract the attention of millennials and Gen-Z users to the expo. The virtual agency is started by Emmy-award-winning actor Lee Jung-Jae from the film, Squid Games.

Visitors to X4 Entertainment will join virtual idol avatars being K-pop trainers and participate in games and educational activities.

Along with Rome and Riyadh, Busan City is vying to host the World Expo in 2030. Busan is recently designated as a blockchain regulation-free zone and is developing its first city-backed crypto exchange with help from Binance, FTX and Huobi Global.

Bidding Conversations: Sustainability, Environment & Digital Transformation

Busan vows to focus on technologies that would help the world keep the balance between development of the technology and climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“If Busan succeeds in its bid to host a BIE (Bureau International des Expositions) registered World Expo in 2030, exhibitions with an emphasis on new technologies of the future such as artificial intelligence(AI), 6G, smart airports and seaports will be presented. This will create a new opportunity for making leaps forward in all areas of the economy, society, and culture,” the Committee noted.

South Korea is one of the countries hoping to host the World Expo in 2030 after its neighbor Japan, which will be the venue for the World Expo 2025. So far, Russia, Italy, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia have submitted bids for the world fair.

The World Expo is an event organized by the BIE [Bureau International des Expositions] that is held every five years. It is considered as one of the several major global events, aside from the Olympic Games and the football World Cup, both of which are held every four years.

South Korea is no longer a stranger to hosting global events: in 1988, it was the host of the 1988 Summer Olympics with Seoul being the main city for the games. It also recently was the site for the 2018 Winter Olympics, held in Pyeongchang.

In terms of expos, the Committee mentioned that they hosted a Special Expo in Daejeon in 1993 — or 100 years after it first participated in the Chicago World Expo. Another Special Expo was hosted by South Korea in 2012, this time in Yeosu.

“The World EXPO 2030 Busan will provide an opportunity for all participants to recognize global challenges and give thought to the environment and new ways of life for humankind,” the Committee said.

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