Expo Starts Slow

The opening weekend of Expo 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea, saw fewer people than expected. Less than 40,000 visitors a day were admitted May 12-13, while organizers were hoping for 100,000 each day.

The expo, which will continue for 93 days, is the first international exposition to be held in South Korea in 20 years. Yeosu is a port city located in South Jeolia Province, about 185 miles from Seoul, with a population of 300,000.

President Lee Myung-Bak officially opened the expo the night of May 11 with a fireworks and laser display. Altogether 104 countries and 10 international organizations are participating. The centerpiece of the 60-acre site is the “Big O,” a 158-foot-tall round steel structure that displays hologram images.

“We admit that we are having a slow start,” an official told the Korea Times. “But more Koreans and non-Koreans will come to Yeosu in the coming days for the state-of-the-art facilities, and cultural performances and music concerts.”

He added that once summer vacation starts in July they expect 100,000 visitors per day. The goal is 10 million visitors for the run of the expo. Of that number, they estimate 800,000 will be from abroad, mainly China and Japan.

Most of the visitors surveyed by the Korea Times said they were satisfied by the exhibits, but many also complained about long lines for the aquarium and the quality of the food and service.

Apparently some restaurants actually ran out of food before the day was through.

Another problem is that many older visitors didn’t realize they needed to make reservations for some exhibits. One 63-year-old woman said she didn’t have a smartphone and didn’t know how to use the internet, which are the only two ways to make reservations.

The chief attraction of the expo, whose theme is “The Living Ocean and Coast,” is robots. The organizers claim that the Yeosu Expo, which is being held between official World Expos that are staged every five years (the last one was Shanghai 2010), boasts the largest number of robots ever assembled at an international exposition, including a robot fish that can explore underwater resources.

The expo is expected to create about 80,000 local jobs and bring in $17 billion.

The cost so far is about $10 billion.