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[Contribution] Yeosu Trip Reflection

Until recently, you would have been easily forgiven for not having the slightest clue about Yeosu. In fact, most people haven't even heard of it.

Situated on the southern coast, far from the hustle and bustle of South Korea’s main tourist destinations, Yeosu remained off the radar for quite some time until back at the end of 2007, when it was announced as host of the 2012 World Expo. 

With this announcement came the creation of nearly 80,000 jobs and billions of pounds of investment poured into the city, kick-starting a revolutionary period that has transformed the small industrial city of just 300,000 people into one with infrastructure capable of supporting the millions of visitors it expects during the course of the Expo. These improvements include the creation of a KTX train station at the Expo site, cutting the travel time from Seoul to Yeosu to three hours, nearly half what it would otherwise be.

(left) Yeosu Expo Station (right) Sky Tower

We arrived in Yeosu just before midday but the Expo was already heaving with people, even despite the poor weather. First, converted from two cement silos is the Sky Tower, which stands at 67 meters tall, features an observatory, a water filtration and desalination system, and a record-breakingly loud pipe organ. The observatory provides fantastic views over the Expo site…or at least I’m sure it would have had the weather not been so overcast! We were all kept rather entertained by the transparent tile in the top floor, allowing visitors to walk between the silos…and see nothing but the ground 67m beneath them.

(left) Lotte Pavilion (right) Hyundai Motor Group Pavilion

From there, we moved on to the pavilions of participants, starting with the Lotte Pavilion. It did seem very much aimed at younger children as it started with a somewhat peculiar music show. Inside a simulated hot air balloon, you travel through different weather systems. Next on the list was the Hyundai Motor Group Pavilion where we were presented with the history of Hyundai motor cars and their eco-friendly future plans to produce life-changing vehicles for the next generation. They concluded with a rather impressive show involving the use of lighting and an eye-catching  wall of moving boxes that projected to form different words, symbols, and pictures intriguing to watch!

We then moved over to the Daewoo Chosun Marine Robot Pavilion. Initially, I was really excited by the concept of this pavilion -- who doesn’t love robots? The tour was interesting and insightful, looking at their progression with robot technology and the use of robotics in deep sea building and exploration. The final pavilion on our list was the Samsung Pavilion. The tour itself consisted of an acrobatics performance -- a girl dancing in different simulated weather conditions…which was pretty to watch.

We decided to beat the weekend swathes of tourists that would be coming the next day and see the aquarium when it wasn’t so packed. I have to say, I love aquariums. There’s just something uniquely special about them and the creatures they house. The huge aquarium at the Expo is no exception; housing over 200 species, including a beluga whale, and has been a huge hit with visitors of all ages. As a result, the queue for the aquarium is one of the longest in the Expo, so be prepared.

(above) The Big-O (below) Night view of the Yeosu Expo venue

The central point of the Expo, it stands as the largest water curtain ever built and is part of a riveting, dramatic fire/water show set against the open sea. The Big-O is one of the icons of the Expo, drawing crowds of thousands every night to watch the show. Even from a far, it was captivating and I was held spell-bound.

Thanks to it being Navy Day, the next day we were able to board a Korean battleship stationed in the harbour and have a poke around. We had great fun donning the sailors’ hats and blazers and posing with their mascot!

Of all the pavilions we visited the next day; my favourite had to be the Climate and Environment Pavilion where we encountered a blizzard ice tunnel, used to simulate the extreme weather conditions of the Arctic and the Antarctic.

I was also really impressed by the “Theme” Pavilion for its powerful message, the importance of our role in caring for the earth, which it portrayed in a manner accessible to all. There were mind-blowing statistics for the adults and interactive marine characters for the children -- genius. Everyone walked away knowing they too were responsible.

We were given the afternoon off to do some free reporting in the international pavilions so I took the opportunity to polish my Chinese skills with a trip to the Chinese Pavilion. Impressed by the acrobatic performance as well as the displays of regional art, I spoke with one of the co-ordinators, Shang Yuan, who told me the art displays within the pavilion changed weekly to exhibit artwork from a different Chinese province. I was lucky enough to see some of the treasures of Fujian province.

With the title theme of “The Source, it’s in your hands,” the Swiss Pavilion encourages us to become more aware of the importance of water and everyone’s role in protecting this vital resource. Despite being landlocked, Switzerland’s main water source is a glacier. To illustrate this, they have transported, from Switzerland to Korea, an ice core which is said to be older than the Korean Peninsula itself!

After the meal, it was time to head over for the K-pop concert. Now, as a real K-pop fan, I was particularly excited by the stunning line up of the evening’s show: KCM, 9Muses, Park Hyo–shin, and Rain! The place was absolutely packed with thousands of visitors trying to get into the concert area.
(left) Park Hyo-shin (right) Rain

The concert was absolutely fantastic and the live performances from all the artists were highlights, not only of my trip to Yeosu, but of my trip to Korea this year! For me, I have to say my favourite performer was Park Hyo-shin, whose breath-taking vocals really stole the show and his ability to get the audience on their feet and clapping along is merit-worthy on its own.

The final day was spent touring the surrounding area of Yeosu including trips to Odongdo Island, Mansungri Black Sand Beach (the only beach of its kind in Korea), and Heungguk Temple, a wonderful fragment of Korean history hidden away from the Expo, proving that the gems to be found in Yeosu aren't just inside the walls of the Expo.

In the blink of an eye, our weekend trip was over and it was time to return once again to the newly built station to catch our train home.

The Yeosu Expo is phenomenal -- there’s no arguing with that. While there is an issue with queuing times for exhibitions, this is something easily managed by considering weather and meal times and taking a good book! Entertaining for adults and children alike, all walk away from the Expo not only having had a great day out, but also more aware of the steps we need to take to preserve and protect our oceans for future generations.

Catapulted onto the global stage, if people didn’t know Yeosu before, they definitely do now.

-By Joanna Darnley, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers

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