With Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea just over a month away, promotional activities are heating up. One of the strategies in the months leading up to this Expo is to utilize social networking services (SNS) through the Expo SNS Supporters Group. Last Friday and Saturday, a team of international students studying at Korean universities got a special advance tour of the Expo grounds.
The tour was overwhelmingly attended by students from China, as well as Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Bhutan, the Philippines, America, Indonesia, and Tanzania. They joined the trip for free, and now their mission is to promote the Expo via social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, and deliver the Expo’s message across the globe.
“For my role as an SNS Supporter I intended to spread my passion for the Expo and my love of Yeosu to other foreigners through Facebook and YouTube by uploading pictures, videos and sharing my experiences there,” said Colin Brown, a student in Korea University GSIS originally from Baltimore in the U.S.
Around noon on Friday, April 6, Brown and approximately 70 international Expo SNS Supporters converged on Yeosu, a peninsular city located on Korea’s southern shore in Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province).
They were greeted at the station by the Expo mascots, Yeony and Suny. The first syllables of their names making up the name Yeosu, the two mascots are “the personification of plankton, a primary source of all life,” according to the Yeosu Expo 2012 Promotion Center.
“The dark blue color of Yeony symbolizes the deep ocean, water and its limitless natural resources,” explains promotional materials in the center, “while the bright red color of Suny represents the living organisms of the ocean and land.”
The tour began in the promotion center, where the SNS Supporters got an overview of the Expo grounds, agenda, and goals.
“The working staff was so friendly,” said Man Kwon, a Dongguk University student originally from Harbin, China. “It kept me enchanted since it was my first time visiting the Expo.”
Next, the supporters donned construction helmets and were led out into the Expo grounds. With the Expo coming up next month, construction is nearly complete, but workers were still active. Work on the Expo grounds has been ongoing for years, transforming the sleepy seaside town into a high-tech city.
“Having been to Yeosu in 2008 the waterfront area seemed unrecognizable from the small port city that I had once thought of as Yeosu,” said Brown, “what with loading docks being replaced with world-class modern design exhibition facilities.”
“It was sad that we could not get inside but the exteriors were magnificent,” said Man. “I feel curious about everything from how the interiors would look, what it will be filled with.”
They did get a look at the centerpiece of the Expo, the Big-O, a giant vertical ring standing over the water. It will be the backdrop for the Night Multimedia Show, as well as a variety of other outdoor performances.
The group also witnessed the fountains that will be used for fountain shows, and heard music from the gigantic pipe organ of Sky Tower, a colossal art piece built from old cement silos.
“I loved the Big-O the most,” said Man. “At first I thought it was a Ferris wheel.”
“Some of the buildings are still under construction so we could not see the whole picture, but the surrounding scenery was beautiful,” said Hou Che-che, a Chinese student from Sandong currently studying in Chungnam University in Daejeon.
After visiting the Expo grounds, the SNS Supporters headed to Odongdo, a small island off the shore of the Expo. The island is connected to the mainland by a 768-meter breakwater that allows easy passage to and from the island. It is known for its 193 species of trees, as well as 70 species of wild flowers, and for its rocky cliffs with caves carved out by the tides. A pier has also been built alongside the breakwater to serve as the Fisheries Experience Zone.
“I think the real beauty of Yeosu is its beautiful seascape with its rocky mountainous backdrop,” said Brown. “Standing on the rocky shore looking out into the South Sea at the boats anchored offshore with the wind blowing in my hair left me feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.”
Under the Expo’s theme “The Living Ocean and Coast,” Odongdo will offer the opportunity to experience a rich coastal ecosystem. The ocean, the coastline, and the ecosystems and economies of both are the main focus of this Expo.
“The ocean is beautiful and important for us,” said Hou. “I hope through this Expo more people can protect the sea.”
“The ocean is the origin of life,” said Man. “It is sacred and mysterious. However the recent excess industrial development is harming nature. When the situation continues and the water level keeps rising, the Earth will be dominated by water. It is scary even thinking about it.”
On the second day, the group headed into Gyeongsangnam-do (South Gyeongsang Province) to visit Hadong County, home to some of Korea's oldest green tea plantations, a Cherry Blossom Festival, and Ssanggyesa, one of the most popular Buddhist temples in the region.
“I am planning to invite my whole family to Korea in this summer and have a tour around Yeosu Expo,” said Man.
“I will most definitely go back to Yeosu during the Expo so at that time I can enjoy all of the events and exhibition that will open,” said Brown. “Also I look forward to enjoying being a part of the international atmosphere that will be created by having many countries represented together in one place.”
Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea starts on May 12 and runs for 93 days to August 92. More than 8 million visitors from over 100 countries are expected to visit.
By Jon Dunbar