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Yeosu Impresses Expo Bid Inspectors with Enthusiasm

Posted April. 12, 2007 07:57,   


On April 11, Yeosu City in South Jeolla Province was as hot as a furnace.

From toddlers to greybeards to disabled people on wheelchairs, it seemed that every single citizen able to move lined up along the streets. All of them were there to welcome the inspection team of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), hoping together that their city would be picked to host the 2012 Expo.

“Yes Yeosu! Yes Expo!”-

After being briefed of the current status of preparation by the bid committee in Seoul, the BIE inspectors moved to Yeosu by plane. On arrival at the airport, they looked stunned at the enthusiastic welcoming of the citizens.

On the six-lane road from the airport to the city hall, tens of thousands of people waving flags of South Korea, the BIE, and BIE member states were filling the sidewalks chanting, “Yes Yeosu! Yes Expo!”

“Although my days are hectic taking care of the cucumbers and tomatoes in my greenhouse, I have put everything else aside to come here,” said Ju Jae-seon (61), headman of a local village. “I hope that we can bring this national event to Yeosu and use it as a chance to develop our region.”

Kim Kwang-hyun, head of “Expoters,” a support group which has directed the civilian efforts for the bid, said, “I can’t hide my excitement when I see the inspectors in front of me.”

With a glowing face, Carmen Sylvain, heading the evaluation team, admired the scene. “All around the world, I have never been greeted so warmly like this. Hardly anyone would disagree with me.”

Endless welcoming events-

After briefed by in the City Hall for about an hour, the inspectors took part in events held on the streets around the city hall. They were served with foods and music of each of their states prepared by the citizens. About 80 professors and students from the Hankook University of Foreign Studies greeted the inspectors dressed in the traditional costumes of those countries and speaking in their home languages.

At 5:30, the inspectors moved to Chungmugong Yi Sunshin, a 5,000-ton naval battleship to join an on-board reception. Some 100 important figures came together at the event and listened to music played by a Navy quartet, including the famous pianist Yiruma (29), who is serving his mandatory term of service with the armed forces.

Then, from 7:40 to 8:00 p.m., the evaluation team visited the maritime park in Jonghwa-dong to watch a demonstration of Admiral Yi Sun-sin’s performance in the Imjin War as part of the “Turtle Ship Festival,” aboard a replica of a traditional warship.

Following the show around 8:00 p.m., inspectors were guided to the main reception event at the park. Some 50,000 citizens gathered at the spot to give rapturous applause. Yeosu Mayor Oh Hyun-sup said, “Together with our citizens, I sincerely welcome your visit to Yeosu after five years of preparation. I am convinced that our strong passion and will would let us host the 2012 Expo in Yeosu.”

A thorough inspection-

Separately from the reception, the inspectors were very prudent regarding their jobs. Upon their arrival at City Hall, they were greeted by Governor Park Joon-young of South Jeolla Province, Mayor Oh Hyun-sup, and civic group leaders, and listened to their presentation on the citizen’s enthusiasm and the status of the city’s preparation.

An official who watched the presentation said, “I was impressed by their taking notes in detail and asking sharp questions.”

Ahead of their visit to Yeosu, President Roh Moo-hyun invited the inspection team to Cheong Wa Dae and asked them for their “help to allow Yeosu host the 2012 International Exhibition.”

The reception was organized to officially express the central government’s full support of Yeosu’s bid. Alongside authorities of the bidding committee, the ministers of Finance and Economy, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Construction and Transportation, and Planning and Budget took part and briefed the inspectors.

goqud@donga.com jefflee@donga.com