A signboard at New York Times Square shows an advertisement on South Korea’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo. The advertisement was posted by the Korean conglomerate LG. Photo courtesy of LG Group

Korean newspaper claims foul at China

China is obstructing South Korea’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo to check the latter’s strengthening alliance with the United States and Japan, according to the Chosun Ilbo on May 13.

A Latin American country recently changed its stance of backing Korea’s 2030 Expo bid and turning to Saudi Arabia because of China’s influence, the report said, citing an unnamed Korean government official.

Another member country of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is also agonizing over whether to keep supporting Korea in the face of China’s persuasion not to do so, according to the report.

When contacted, both Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bid Committee for World Expo 2030 Busan said that they knew nothing about the accusations. Comments from the Chinese embassy in Seoul were not available.

However, observers pointed out that the article might include some truths.

“Amid the lingering conflicts with the United States, China may not want to see Seoul join hands with Tokyo to beef up the trilateral alliance with Washington,” Seoul University of Foreign Studies politics professor Son Tae-gyu said.

“Against this backdrop, there are suspicions that China is trying to check Korea by such measures as obstructing its hosting of the 2030 World Expo. I am not sure if our government has clear evidence, though.”

The relationship between Seoul and Beijing showed a sign of turning sour after the May 2022 inauguration of the former’s President Yoon Suk-yeol, who tried to improve the alliance with the U.S. and Japan.

In March, President Yoon visited Japan to mend fences with the neighboring country by dealing with years of standoffs. In April, he paid a state visit to the U.S. to strengthen the bilateral ties.

By contrast, things worsened with China in April as Yoon expressed opposition in a media interview to any attempts to change the status quo of the Taiwan Strait by force.

Chinese foreign ministry criticized the remarks as verbal meddling in Beijing’s domestic issues. In response, Korea criticized such comments as “unspeakable.”

South Korea’s port city Busan strives to host the World Expo in 2030, and the country has gone all out to hold the global event, which takes place every five years.

Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh and Italy’s Rome are competing with Busan, and the winner will be picked later this year through the votes of 170 BIE member countries.