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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Yeosu World Expo 2012 – May 12- Aug 12

By Deirdre Madden

The first World’s Fair was held in London, England in 1851. Since that time, many World’s Fairs and Expos have been held in countries around the globe, to showcase state-of-the-art technology (the telephone was first introduced at a World’s Fair), present an opportunity for cultural exchange, and allow countries to showcase themselves.

It’s also an opportunity for architects to go hog-wild, and while many exhibits are temporary, a number of structures have gone on to become iconic features of their cities. The Eiffel Tower came into being for the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, as did the Seattle Space Needle, in 1962. Even the ride, “It’s a Small World” at Disneyworld was part of the 1964 New York Fair.

This year, Expo 2012 is being held by Yeosu, a small city on the southern coast of Korea’s Jeollanam province, from May 12 to Aug 12. Whether it will leave a lasting piece of World Class architecture, only time will tell. But they’ve certainly put together a sight (and a site) worth seeing.

Plans for the venue

The theme for this year’s Expo is “The Living Ocean & Coast”, so many of the exhibitions will focus on coastal and aquatic life. The main space is the world’s first offshore exhibition hall. Korea’s largest aquarium has also been built to showcase species of sealife from around the world.

The Theme Hall

The Sky Tower will demonstrate sea water desalination, as well as offering views of the Expo grounds and surrounding area. On the outside, the Tower has been turned in the World’s Loudest Pipe Organ, as certified by the Guiness Book of World Records.

Abandoned cement warehouse being repurposed

There will also be “The Big O”, a 43m tall oval monument with a water-screen for displaying videos, a holographic video, and water jets, mist, flames, lights and lasers shooting off from the outer rim. That’s right. Flames, lasers, and water jets, all from the Big O.

That IS a Big O!

Of course, there will be an International pavilion, a corporate pavilion, and other exhibitions around the area, with plenty to see and do. The calendar on this page details which day each country will be showcasing cultural performances. But don’t get excited to see your homeland represented if you’re Canadian or Greek. Those two countries both turned down invitations, saying the Expo was “too expensive” to attend. In all, around 100 countries were expected to attend, from Azerbaijan and Bangladesh to Vanuatu and Yemen.

Passes are reasonably priced, considering the scope of the Expo. Day passes for Adults are 33,000 (youth 13-19 25,000; children 4-19, seniors 65+ 19,000).

Opening weekend (May 12-13), Buddha’s birthday weekend (May26-28) and closing weekend (Aug 10-12) are considered “Peak” times, and the passes are more expensive – 40K, 30K and 23K respectively.

There are also 2-day passes (53K, 40K,30K) and 3-day passes (69K, 53K, 40K), which must be used on consecutive days, as well as seasons passes, which can be used over the entire summer (200K, 150K, 100K).

If you book a group of 30 or more people through Customer Service, there are group rates available. Tickets can be purchased online here.

The digital gallery

To get to Yeosu from Ulsan is a bit of a trek, but as with most traveling in Korea, there are many ways to go.

By KTX – take the train from Ulsan to Daejeon, transfer to Iksan, then on to Yeosu.

By Bus – take a bus from Ulsan to Suncheon, then transfer to Yeosu.

By Car – Head towards Busan (Hwy 1) then continue on past Jinju (Hwy 10). Head south on Hwy 27. I would be very surprised if there weren’t very clear signs leading the way from there, since Korean signposting is some of the best I’ve seen, and this is a pretty big deal for the country.

By motorcycle or scooter – Since you can’t take the toll highways, take Hwy 24 out past Eonyang, through Miryang and towards Hapcheon (this avoids the insanity that is Masan/Changwon). Head south on Hwy 33 towards Jinju, then take Hwy 2 west towards Suncheon. From Suncheon, Hwy 17 south will take you into Yeosu (again, it should be pretty well signposted from that point).