July 23, 2012


David Ellis
Hilary Roots

HANDS up if you've heard of Yeosu.

And hands up again if you know where it is, with top marks if you can say why it's currently revelling in the limelight.

The answer to the latter is that Yeosu, a small port city at the lower tip of South Korea, is the site for this year's World Expo, an event expected to attract 8-million visitors during its three months run to August 12th.

It's a nice boost for a city that's not really on the way to anywhere, but whose cool summers, mild winters and lengthy spring and autumn encourage plenty of tourists to Korea to make the three-hour trip there by fast train from Seoul, or around the same time by bus from Busan.

Not a trade fair, Yeosu's World Expo is an international event along the lines of what the inaugural Great Exhibition in London's Crystal Palace first paraded in 1851, and what Brisbane hosted in 1988. And with this year's theme of Living Ocean and Coast Expo, the 103 participating nations are highlighting just how precious is water to mankind's, and indeed the earth's, survival.

Denmark notes that global water use increases at more than twice the rate of population, while the Swiss pavilion headlines "Water is Nature's Bloodstream," and has a presentation of drops of water in an obscure tunnel that ends with a taste of fresh alpine water for visitors to savour.

Some world expos are precursors of what become everyday innovations. Our co-writer this week, Hilary Roots remembers the Italian pavilion at Brisbane in '88 presenting the extraordinary concept of a telephone with pictures – something pretty banal now.

And she recalls being impressed at Japan's Tskuba Expo in 1985 with hydroponically growing tomatoes – and a robotic man walking down stairs with awkward difficulty. So what of this year at Yeosu? Hilary says there are some electronic achievements that are remarkable, including from when visitors arrive into a passageway with a gigantic digital ceiling, 218 metres long, featuring a dreaming whale and other displays. No need to queue here, simply lift your eyes and watch the colourful swim-past of thousands of digitally-created images.

Some countries at Yeosu vaunt their careful use of water. Others rest on their laurels, while some encourage visitors to stop and think, pointing out that commonsense and sharing knowledge can contribute to more equitable water usage throughout the world.

The Dutch, for example, remind the world that climate change can be coped with – and point out that they've been doing just that for hundreds of years, given that much of their country is below sea-level. They built dykes and canals and set an example in a world that can be somewhat hysteric over what to do should the sea level rise – maybe, as Hilary says, we should be thinking the old Boy Scout motto.

Again the Dutch, ever so practical, present visitors with a flat water bottle at Yeosu - it deflates as one drinks from it, folds away to next to nothing, and is refillable. Korea itself, the US and Russia have impressive displays, and organisers have put together a well-patronised aquarium featuring rare creatures such as the small, white Beluga whale, and highlighting marine ranching or farming done in Yeosu itself.

Small countries are also present. Monaco one of them, and Pacific island states from Papua New Guinea eastwards through the Solomon Islands to Vanuatu, Nauru, Fiji, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati.

And yes Australia is there with a two-fold purpose: firstly to build on trade and investment relationships with the Republic of Korea with whom Trade Minister, Craig Emerson says we've a long history of friendship, business ties and diplomatic links. And secondly with the theme "In Harmony with the Ocean" highlighting our credentials with high environmental, scientific and technical capabilities in marine conservation, and a commitment to sustainable development of our vast natural assets – our pavilion's already been visited by over a million expo-goers including Denmark's (our) Princess Mary.

So if you happen to be in or around Korea before August 12th, join those at Yeosu looking to a better world through sensible use of water and the oceans. The new Yeosu Hotel, two minutes from the gates, is a good place to start.


[] UNUSUAL moving digital ceiling at this year's Yeosu World Expo

[] PRINCE Frederik and (our) Princess Mary head for the Australian stand at the Expo.

[] PRINCESS Mary meets didgeridoo player Kristian Benton on the Australian stand.

[] CORNER of the colourful Australian stand.

(Photos: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

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