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Expo, where Human Progress and History Meet People 1. The Significance and History of World Expo

From May 12 through Oct. 12, 2012, Yeosu in Jeollanam-do hosted Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, one of the three big world festivals (with Olympics and World Cup). It was the first international exposition that Korea hosted 19 years after Daejeon Expo in 1993. It cut a brilliant figure as a venue with the topic of ‘The Living Ocean and Coast’ that presented a variegated competition in science, technology, and culture. Thus, countries of the world, international organizations, private organizations, and global companies brought their science, technology, and culture for presentation and exchange in a single setting. Thus, an expo differs from such mammoth international events like Olympics and World Cup which bring a temporary economic boom with expanded facilities and event tourists and provides a venue for discussing fundamental development and hopes for humankind in a macro perspective and in a universal fashion involving theme, content, educational value, and upgrade of the status of regions and countries. In this issue of INSIGHT, we present an in-depth analysis the significance and history of international expositions and the operation and functions of Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), while looking at the future directions for world expo.


1. The Significance and History of Expo
2. Bureau International des Exposition (BIE) and Expo
3. Competition to Host Next Expo
4. Directions for Future Development of Expo

1. The Significance and History of World Expo

Expo, a future-oriented cultural Olympics
An international exposition is a mega event for the world, counted among the big three festivals of humankind along with Olympics and World Cup. Like Olympics, an expo presents solutions and vision with respect to the problems facing the entire humankind as a venue for sharing in one setting the legacy of humankind such as science & technology, industry, and culture and exchanging hopes and visions for its future. Expo may be safely said to be a future-oriented cultural Olympics and economic festival that contributes human prosperity and corporate development. In expo, people meet the level of technology, industrial mode, and new culture that represent a generation. The significance and essence of an international exposition consists in serving as a festival where you can meet the life of people who are a little bit different from yourself.
Expo is designed for human progress and exchange in culture and perceptions
There are a number of commercially motivated expositions, but an exposition is basically held with the educational view of pursuing human progress and realizing globalization through the exchange among cultures and perceptions of the world. Therefore, an exposition must be closely related to companies, organizations, and local community that support its implementation, while the content supplied to the audience must serve education and public good.

Evaluation of an expo focuses on macro aspects such as upgraded status in international community
It is not easy to provide a specific explanation of the effects from the hosting of an exposition. It is because it is not easy to establish criteria for evaluating the intrinsic values of an exposition, let alone the economic success of an exposition. Thus, the success of an exposition is assessed in comparison of the expectation established earlier on. Success in most international expositions stands for a success from macronomic perspective, which means positive effects such as an upgraded status in international community.

Four evaluative criteria applied to invisible effects
More specifically, as regards evaluation that applies to the early expectation of an exposition and invisible effects generated by actual results, we can think of the following four criteria. First, hosting an expo has to do with the urban development program of a specific host country which comprises development for infrastructure upgrade and urbanization for the country. The government of the region that hosts an expo expands or builds required infrastructure such as roads and facilities or creates new spaces for cultural experience. Second, it is about instilling pride in local community and improving and upgrading the city image in international community. Such an aspect is not directly related to economic factors but indirectly serves to change human perception, thus providing an opportunity to upgrade the living standards and satisfaction in a specific local community. Third, the economic effects of investment are hard to calculate in accurate figures. In general, an international exposition reportedly can be analyzed with results coming out several years after it is held. And according to data compiled by BIE, not more than five international exposition have registered surplus. 1993 Daejeon Expo was a representative success with its surplus of 90 billion won. Thus, international expositions held in developing countries are found to achieve a relatively great economic effect as they speed up the development of their infrastructure. However, international expositions are not for profit creation, but they are festive venues where different countries display their best stuffs for exchange and promotion all the while pursuing common prosperity for the entire humankind. Accordingly, the final standard should be not about creating profits for a host city alone, but about creating a greater type of profit that consists in upgrading the national and industrial image for all countries and organizations that participate in international expositions. So, international expositions are ultimately designed to promote cultural and technological exchange among nations and reinvigorate their diplomatic relationships.

Seeds planted in 1912 for founding international expositions
International expositions boast a long history. Regions that have historically served as transportation hubs have grown into large markets, thus creating opportunities for cultural growth as well. In that sense, France perceived the need to create the international regime for expositions in 1907, while in 1912, the German government convened interested governments in Berlin to create a basis for an international governance for international expositions for the purpose of setting up a related organization. Unfortunately, however, the agreement failed to be ratified due to the World War I that broke out in 1914.

Foundation created in 1928 for today’s expo
Later in 1928, there was a new meeting in Paris, and 31 countries signed a treaty for organizing the first international exposition on Nov. 22. In 1928, an expo was held in Paris, thus creating the binding framework for today’s international and global expo.


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