BIE

World Expositions

  • History
  • The BIE
  • Korea in World Expos
History of World Expos.jpg

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One of the three pillars of major global festivities, together with the Olympics and the World Cup, World Expos are large-scale events held with a specific theme in order to highlight the related achievements of humankind and its future prospects. They are analogous to the economic and cultural Olympics that contribute to human prosperity by presenting solutions and future visions related to global issues.

Origin of Expos

The historic root of world expos can be traced back to events that were held to display state power in the ancient West some 2,500 years ago. In the modern era, countries that formed the foundation of the industrial revolution, namely the U.K. and France, were pioneers of the event, introducing the advancement of their sciences and technology to the world. The very first World Expo was the Great Exposition held in Crystal Palace, London, U.K. in 1851.

In 1928, the Convention Relating to International Exhibitions was signed to resolve excessive competition among countries bidding to host a world expo and enhance understanding between participating and hosting countries. The Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) was then established. The BIE selects the host country for Expos, sets various criteria for the hosts and participants, and ensures the overall quality of the Expos.

History and Significance of World Expos

Initial Phase (1851 - 1930) : Monumental constructions 
Celebration of technology, state power, national progress 
→ Modern Phase (1931 - 1990) : Part of a nation’s urban development strategy 
Test-bed for urban engineering and construction 
→ Present (1991 - ) : Identifyng the common issues facing humankind 
Emphasis on post-Expo uses and urban regeneration

Since the mid-19th century, world expos have contributed to the global economy and the advancement of science and technology by launching and spreading new products and technology.

Exhibition halls served as venues where novel technological inventions were presented to a global audience. The creations and achievements were closely linked to significant evolutionary phases of human society, such as the industrial revolution and revolutions in automobiles, communications, information and environmental protection that had a long-term influence on the world’s economic growth.

The Great Exhibition of 1851, London, UK
The Great Exhibition of 1851, London, UK
New York World’s Fair, U.S., 1853
New York World’s Fair, U.S., 1853
Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, U.S., 1876
Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, U.S., 1876
Exposition Universelle d’Anvers, Antwerp, Belgium, 1885
Exposition Universelle d’Anvers, Antwerp, Belgium, 1885
Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., 1904
Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., 1904

The steam engine and other locomotives featured in the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, in 1851, led to the emergence of diesel and electric locomotives that paved the way for the modern technological progress resulting in today’s subway, high-speed trains, and magnetically levitated trains (MAGLEV).

The World Expo celebrating the centenary of US Independence, in 1876, was followed by the launch of the telephone, the foundation for today’s mobile phones and computers.

The 1885 Antwerp Expo held in Belgium resulted in the emergence of commercial automobiles and the St. Louis Expo in 1904 demonstrated controlled flight successfully by airships. The 1939 New York Expo unveiled the first television set in the history of the world.

Major World Expos

In the 20th century, world expos presented new ideas and ways of thinking, such as sustainable development, thus creating new values for culture, history, and future society. From the 1930s to the early 21st century, the ideas of sustainable development and progress have been a popular theme in many global expositions.

International Exposition on the Environment, Spokane, Washington, U.S., 1974
International Exposition on the Environment, Spokane, Washington, U.S., 1974
Seville Expo ’92, Seville, Spain, 1992
Seville Expo ’92, Seville, Spain, 1992
Expo ’98, Lisbon, Portugal, 1998
Expo ’98, Lisbon, Portugal,
1998
Expo 2000, Hanover, Germany, 2000
Expo 2000, Hanover, Germany, 2000

The Japan World Exposition held in Osaka, Japan in 1970 was based on the theme, “Progress and Harmony for Mankind.” It was notable for the new environmental paradigm it set for society, one which prioritized conservation of natural resources and reduction of pollution.

The International Exposition on the Environment held in Spokane, Washington, US in 1974, brought environmental issues to the forefront once again under the theme, “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh Environment.”

The World Fair in Hanover, Germany, in 2000, emphasized sustainable development and recycling based on the theme, “Humankind, Nature, and Technology – A New World Arising.”

World expos became promoters of a country’s image through the harmonious development of the individual and the state. Spreading the values of peaceful development, harmony, and coexistence, world expos served as platforms that enabled exchanges between diverse nations and cultures.

Expo'93, Daejeon, Korea, 1993
Expo'93, Daejeon, Korea,
1993
Expo 2008, Zaragoza, Spain, 2008
Expo 2008, Zaragoza, Spain, 2008
Expo 2010 Shanghai China
Expo 2010 Shanghai China
The Republic of Korea Pavilion for Expo 2010 Shanghai China
The Republic of Korea Pavilion for Expo 2010 Shanghai China

The first World Expo following the end of World War II was held in Brussels, Belgium in 1958. It opposed the war and proposed harmony and coexistence through scientific progress.

Spain’s modernization was recognized by the world at the Seville Expo in 1992, and the Daejeon Expo in 1993 announced to the rest of the international community that South Korea had joined the ranks of advanced countries.

Expo 2010 Shanghai China, the first Registered Exposition held in a developing country, set a record as the largest world exposition with 246 official participants and 73 million visitors.

With today’s mass media, world expos provide a venue for public diplomacy for both the host and participating countries.

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