BUSAN, South Korea — Through August 12, the port city of Yeosu in South Jeolla province and its 317 islands is hosting the World Expo, with a theme of “The Living Ocean and Coast: Diversity of Resources and Sustainable Activities". The overall goal of the three-month exhibition by countries from around the globe is to promote how humans can live in harmony with the ocean, while also encouraging sustainable development and renewal energy. I had a chance to see it on its opening day.
The Good: I was very impressed with the Expo’s organization. We arrived around 8:30 a.m. with our (frankly disappointing) tour operator. After 9 a.m., you can reserve your top two pavilion choices. This helped smashingly in allowing us to detour long, never-ending lines unlike the Shanghai Expo of 2010. When I attended the Shanghai Expo, I was lucky to tour four pavilions in six hours. The crowds were much bigger in Shanghai, but a reservation system could have indeed helped.
The Bad: In order to be a successful international event with appeal to diverse backgrounds, they needed to have several languages available at the exhibitions. There are 105 international pavilions to attract a varying crowd of participants. However, several pavilions, including Korea’s, did not include English (the most widely-used tourist language!) in the video displays.
The Ugly: The expo was absolutely gorgeous, with an astounding array of architectural designs, light exhibitions and dancers in vibrant costumes. Nevertheless, it would be remiss to not mention that several of the pavilions were not finished by the opening day. I did not have time to investigate the corporate pavilions such as LG and Samsung, but it is common knowledge that they were incomplete. What I did see were a disappointing number of wooden planks and walled-off construction areas.
Despite its flaws, I did have a lovely time and would recommend anyone living in Korea to check it out. I suggest visiting over the course of two days if you want to take a lot in.
Getting to and from Yeosu
The best route to Yeosu from Busan is by bus, as there are no direct trains from here. You can take either a bus from Sasang or Nopo terminals at a cost of 18,100 won and it takes two hours and 50 minutes. As reported widely in the media, poor planning by the Expo commission has, much like other past international events in Korea, vastly under-supplied the surrounding area with accommodations. Book in advance or consider staying in Gwangju, which s about 40 minutes away.
Related Story: Why I Won't be Going to Yeosu Expo