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Entertainment

BTS and Busan’s all-out bid for World Expo 2030

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
BTS and Busanâs all-out bid for World Expo 2030
Busan City enlists the help of South Korea’s national treasure BTS in its bid to host the World Expo 2030.

Busan, the second largest city in South Korea, is going all-out in its bid to host the World Expo 2030. What better way to win it than enlist the help of global idols and South Korea’s national treasure BTS.

If Busan gets to host the World Expo, South Korea will be the seventh country to serve as stage for “the world’s three mega events,” including the Olympics and World Cup, the top K-pop group said in a video message.

“A game changer” was how officials, on the other hand, called BTS’ participation as honorary ambassadors in the World Expo campaign. During the livestreamed ceremony, World Expo 2030 bid committee co-chair Chey Tae-Won, said of the boy band and its fandom ARMY: “A Korean saying comes to mind (and it) says, ‘Winning with thousands of troops and horses.’ BTS ARMY members across 197 countries attended an online BTS concert last year. This is greater than the BIE member states at 170. Need I say more? It’s game over.”

BIE refers to the Bureau International des Expositions, the inter-governmental organization that oversees and regulates the World Expos, which happen every five years.

Oryukdo Island dock has signages (inset) directing tourists to the exact location where BTS visited and took pictures.

“There’s a BTS song titled The Rise of the Bangtan, which was released not long after their debut. The lyrics start with what will happen if BTS rises? I can only imagine how BTS joining us in our efforts to bring the Expo to Busan will be a game-changer,” he added.

To keep the momentum going, BTS and its label HYBE will embark on a series of promotional activities, including a free concert in October. It’s expected to be the group’s first performance since announcing last June that members were pursuing solo projects.

Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon hinted at the ceremony that the concert in Busan will be bigger than the group’s concert in Los Angeles last year. “The Busan concert will serve as an invaluable opportunity to promote Busan’s bid to host the World Expo to millions of BTS fans worldwide and garner support for Busan,” he said.

When The STAR recently joined Kapuso star Kyline Alcantara in her first-ever visit to Korea after being appointed by Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) Manila as the new honorary ambassador in the Philippines, we had a glimpse of the excitement and energy that BTS brought to the World Expo 2023 bid.

Despite their busy schedule, “(BTS) will really help us (through promotional events),” SongYi Lee, Busan Tourism Organization (BTO) senior manager for the Global Marketing Team, told The STAR.

Composed of RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook, BTS was chosen for obvious reasons. But besides their stature in the global entertainment scene, some of its members also hold a special connection to this port city. Jungkook and Jimin, in particular, were born and raised in Busan.

Earlier, the likes of Squid Game star Lee Jung Jae were tapped to be celebrity ambassadors of the World Expo campaign. Now, they’re also inviting celebrities and influencers from overseas, like Kyline, to come visit and help spread the word about the city.

“The Philippine market is very important because we have a direct flight to the Philippines,” Lee said.

P.ARK Cafe and Bakery is touted as ‘biggest coffee shop in Asia.’

“Actually, the Koreans, they go to the Philippines, to Cebu or the other islands a lot, and at the same time many Filipinos come to Busan,” she added.

Cebu, which the official Busan website cited as the largest tourism and resort city in Southeast Asia, has been a sister city of Busan since 2011.

If you’re a huge fan, not just of BTS, but Korean pop culture in general, Busan is the place to go. Lee stressed that Hallyu or the Korean wave is a major tourism driver for Busan.

“Hallyu is very important… It’s a big part (of our tourism),” she said. “Busan is very famous as a drama destination and for shooting movies.”

We found that out for ourselves when we explored some of the things tourists could do when in Busan, based on KTO Manila’s familiarization tour itinerary.

Top on the list is go where BTS was spotted in Busan. These include the Oryukdo Island (at Yongho-dong, Nam-gu), a geo-park which Jimin visited back in 2015. Our group was told that the sheer number of inquiries from ARMYs about the exact location led to the creation of signages that direct visitors to where the BTS member took his photos, which is a dock that sits atop a breathtaking cliff overlooking rock formations. In 2007, it was declared a National Cultural Heritage Scenic Spot.

There’s also the Dadaepo Beach, which Jimin promoted as having the best sunset. Though we missed that part, the delayed visit proved that nighttime is also a good time to enjoy its eco-trail. Its famous stretch of sand also figured in some dashing horseback riding scenes of Lee Min Ho in The King: Eternal Monarch.

When it comes to nighttime scenes, Busan also offers hour-long yacht tours which end with a fireworks display against the backdrop of waterfront landmarks like the Gwangan or Diamond suspension bridge.

For some daytime action, Busan’s only theme park Lotte World Adventure just opened with full-day passes priced from around 33,000 to 47,000 won (P1,400 to P2,000-plus) depending on the age group. While some of the most charming sights, also at daytime, can be found at Gamcheon Cultural Village (Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu), also dubbed as South Korea’s version of Santorini, Machu Picchu and Lego Village. What used to be a depressed area inhabited by Korean War refugees, the entire neighborhood has been transformed into a vibrant art hub. Here, friendly locals approach you to tell you where to take the prettiest photos, including a mural of Jimin and Jungkook.

To experience Korea’s coffee culture, Busan has the “biggest coffee shop in Asia,” the six-storey P.ARK Cafe and Bakery (Haeyang-ro 195beon-gil, Yeongdo-gu). While the “highest” Starbucks can be found at Busan X The Sky, located at the 98th to 100th floor of the Haeundae LCT Landmark Tower (Dalmaji-gil, Haeundae-gu). With entrance fees at a little over P1,000 each (if converted from won) for adults, it offers an unrivaled observation deck in South Korea for possibly the best view of Haeundae Beach, the country’s most popular beach (reportedly attracting 10 million visitors every season!). K-drama fans will easily recognize The Sky’s restaurant on the 99th floor as a film setting of Now, We’re Breaking Up starring Song Hye Kyo.

Gamcheon Cultural Village is a vibrant art city on a foothill featuring murals, including one of BTS members Jimin and Jungkok, who are Busan natives.

A trip to Busan would be incomplete without a taste of Korean cinema. The city holds the honor of being a UNESCO Creative City of Film, thanks in part to the Busan International Film Festival. The BIFF square (Nampo-gil, Jung-gu) is a major tourist draw with its walkway featuring handprints and footprints of film stars and cinemas clustered within a shopping and street food district.

For sure, one of the first things that comes to mind upon the mention of Busan is the zombie blockbuster Train To Busan. But over 70 titles have been shot in Busan, including the Hollywood flick Black Panther (2018) and Korea’s critically and commercially successful works like Oldboy (2003), Pachinko (2022), Mr. Sunshine (2018), Peninsula (2020), The King: Eternal Monarch (2020), among others.

For details on the requirements before traveling to South Korea, check out KTO Manila’s social media accounts.

Other Busan attractions are (from left) the Busan X The Sky observation deck, Lotte World Adventure theme park, Haeundae Beach (as viewed from The Sky), The King: Eternal Monarch setting Dadaepo Beach and the Busan International Film Festival Square.

Familiarization tour photos courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization Manila, BTS photo from World Expo 2030 Busan Korea’s FB page

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