Yoon arrives in France to promote Expo bid

June 19, 2023

President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in France on Monday to promote South Korea’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo in its southeastern city of Busan, the first leg of a two-nation tour that will later take him to Vietnam.

Yoon will attend a general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the international body in charge of overseeing the World Expo, on Tuesday and Wednesday, with an English speech planned for South Korea’s presentation the first day.

The assembly will be held in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a commune in the southwestern suburban area of Paris, and bring together delegates from all 179 member states of the BIE.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) and first lady Kim Keon Hee disembark Code One after arriving at Paris Orly Airport, near Paris, on June 19, 2023. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) and first lady Kim Keon Hee disembark Code One after arriving at Paris Orly Airport, near Paris, on June 19, 2023. (Yonhap)

“The government and private sector, and the central and regional governments, have made all-out efforts as one team in order to host the 2030 World Expo in Busan, and every time I met with foreign leaders, I too have requested their support,” Yoon said during a Cabinet meeting last week. “The presentation at the general assembly attended by all 179 member states will be an opportunity to show the distinct vision of the Busan Expo.”

Hosting the Expo was one of Yoon’s campaign pledges and was also included among his administration’s key tasks. The mega-event has been expected to generate economic benefits of a massive 61 trillion won (US$48 billion) by drawing millions of visitors from around the world to engage in immersive activities around the themes of scientific, technological, economic and social progress.

Yoon has used almost every diplomatic opportunity to seek support for Busan in competition against three other candidate cities — Rome, Italy; Odesa, Ukraine; and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

This will be the fourth presentation by the candidate cities ahead of the selection of the winner in November. Other speakers from the South Korean side will include rapper Psy, members of academia and chiefs of startup businesses, while Karina of K-pop girl group aespa and soprano Sumi Jo will take part virtually.

On Wednesday, Yoon will attend an official reception hosted by South Korea to rally support from foreign delegations.

In Paris, Yoon will also hold a summit with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, wrapping up a series of summits with the leaders of all member states of the Group of Seven and the European Union conducted over the past two months, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo told reporters last week.

“As France is the origin of the universal values of freedom, human rights and rule of law pursued by the Yoon Suk Yeol administration, there will be in-depth conversations during this summit on expanding cooperation between the two countries through a value alliance,” Kim said.

In particular, the two leaders are expected to talk about their countries’ respective Indo-Pacific strategies, cooperation on international security issues, and deepening cooperation on artificial intelligence, space and cutting-edge future industries.

From Paris, Yoon will travel to Vietnam on Thursday for a three-day state visit. He will hold a summit with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong on Friday and discuss ways to deepen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership established between the two countries last year.

He will hold separate talks with Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Vuong Dinh Hue, chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly, and also attend a state dinner.

“Through this state visit, we plan to check various institutional bases to enable more active economic activities between the two countries and expand the horizon of bilateral cooperation to new areas, such as critical mineral supply chains, new and renewable energy, innovative science and technology, and smart cities,” Kim said, noting that Vietnam is South Korea’s third-largest trading partner.

Four different business events have been planned, including a South Korea-Vietnam partnership fair and a luncheon with South Korean businesspeople in Vietnam.

A 205-member business delegation will accompany Yoon on the visit, the largest yet under the current administration, including Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung.

This will be Yoon’s first bilateral visit to a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

First lady Kim Keon Hee is accompanying him to both France and Vietnam.