Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was announced as the host of World Expo 2030 on November 28, 2023, during the General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) on the outskirts of Paris, France. While Korean media's attention on the matter waned at this point, foreign media coverage was even more intense. At the Saudi delegation's press conference shortly after the announcement, foreign journalists focused on how Saudi Arabia won a landslide with 72% of the vote. One remarked that it was ‘unprecedented to win two-thirds of the vote in the first round of voting.’
The foreign media highlighted that the key factor in Saudi Arabia's success was its ability to establish an early lead. A delegate from the Americas at the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) was quoted by the U.S. political outlet Politico, stating, "The Saudis won over public sentiment by positioning themselves as frontrunners from the start."
Most notably, it was symbolic that Saudi Arabia secured the official endorsement of French President Emmanuel Macron as early as July of last year. Having Macron on its side, with his influential voice within the European Union, also helped alleviate concerns from other EU member states regarding Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record.
In the same month when Macron endorsed Saudi Arabia, Korea established a 2030 Busan Expo bid committee under the prime minister. It entered the bidding game relatively late, with its rival having already secured the public endorsement of a major world leader. While I acknowledge the hard work of the Korean delegation, there's no denying that the initial response was tardy.
As I observed the campaign to host the World Expo, it appeared to be rushing and cramming. Concerns arose as the bid committee expanded in size, casting doubt on its effectiveness. Instead of systematically convincing different member states, whenever a country showed signs of leaning toward Korea, everyone in charge would hastily direct their attention to that specific country.
Many people traveled to Paris to support Korea's bid. While some dedicated individuals journeyed long distances without taking a day off work to show their support, others spent taxpayer money on superficial and unproductive activities.
Of course, the 400 rounds of traveling around the world that the government and companies undertook to host the expo will not be in vain. Above all, the public and private sectors worked collaboratively to showcase Busan's value to the international community, which had been overshadowed by Seoul. To ensure that the experience of losing the bid remains valuable, it is necessary to soberly analyze the defeat and incorporate the lessons learned when preparing for other national events.