Elections meant to determine the location of World Expo 2030 concluded yesterday. Despite South Korea's and Samsung Electronics‘ efforts to promote Busan as the host city for the upcoming expo, Busan lost to Riyadh. The Saudi Arabian capital won the elections in a landslide victory.
Busan won only 29 votes out of 165, while Rome in Italy earned a mere 17 votes. Meanwhile, Riyadh accumulated 119 votes, resulting in Rome and Busan getting knocked out of the election in the first round.
The World Expo authority, the Bureau International des Expositions, held the vote in Paris on Tuesday after the bidders presented their proposals. Votes were anonymous, and some argue that the elections were rigged.
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Disappointment for Samsung, South Korea, and the city of Busan
The South Korean government doubled down on its diplomatic efforts to secure Busan's position in the World Expo 2030 bid since 2022. Unfortunately, South Korea lost, and Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told reporters “I feel sorry for not meeting the citizens' expectations. I feel grave responsibility.” (via The Korea Herald)
The Prime Minister added he humbly concedes defeat and that South Korea “will continue to build on diplomatic assets we obtained by engaging with 182 countries.”
Interestingly, there were some accusations that these elections weren't quite true to the democratic spirit. When reporters asked Kim Yi-tae, a professor of tourism and convention marketing at Pusan National University, why Busan lost by such a large margin, he said “vote buying” occurred.
The professor explained that Saudi Arabia promised “astronomical development aid” to the developing countries eligible to vote in the World Expo 2030 elections. In other words, Saudi Arabia's Riyadh may have won through vote buying rather than its bid.
South Korea's bid ran the slogan “Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future.” One of the most active promoters for Busan was Samsung Electronics. For nearly two years, Samsung took every opportunity to promote Busan as the potential host city for World Expo 2030.
Samsung put up billboards and ads in numerous cities around the world and used events like CES, MWC, and IFA to push Busan in the spotlight. Furthermore, Samsung officials and Lee Jae-yong met with various political figures, including the President of Mexico and Vietnam's Prime Minister, to try to improve Busan's chances of victory.