Dubai: South Korea knows a thing or two about Expos – after all, the country hosted the world twice in 1993 at Daejeon and in 2012 at the coastal city of Yeosu. For its participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, tradition and modernity will coexist in the Korea Pavilion, a dynamic structure covered in approximately 1,600 spinning cubes of light and colour. Situated in the Mobility District, the country pavilion is one of the largest on site covering a whopping 4,651 square metres.
“[Expo 2020 Dubai] is significant in that it is the first Expo held in the Middle East and Africa region,” said Jeoungyeol Yu, Commissioner General of the Korea Pavilion, President and CEO of KOTRA (Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency), in an interview with Gulf News. “The [Korean] exhibition takes visitors on a journey of mobility, helping them understand social and technological trends in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
The [Korean] exhibition [at Expo 2020 Dubai] takes visitors on a journey of mobility, helping them understand social and technological trends in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The theme of ‘Smart Korea, Moving the World to you’ can be seen in the pavilion journey as well as the architecture, relaying the country’s dedication to lead humanity to a future of “super-connectivity”.
An ever-changing dancing façade
South Korea’s interpretation of the mobility subtheme finds representation in Mooyuki Architects’ design. The concept is based on ‘Mobile MASSITY’ – the latter word a compound of mass and city, reflecting the collective energy of wired Koreans who have been extremely adaptable in the digital era. ‘Mobile’ on the other hand alludes to both the smart phone device and the ability to move.
Adding to the literal dynamism of the theme are rotating cubes of 60 centimetres that come to life once the sun sets. Using a computer programme, various texts and images will be drawn on the sloping exterior as the LED lights of each cube are triggered. Just like ‘a mass of people dancing excitedly’, the cubes twist and turn throughout the day at different speeds.
“We would like to invite you to come and enjoy the gorgeous sunset of Expo 2020 Dubai from our vista points,” said Yu.
While you enjoy the spacious offerings of the pavilion inside, you can even step out on to one of its four moving ramps to see what the scene outside is like. The escalator-like spiral ramps, running more than 550 metres in total, jut out as extensions to each of the four storeys at sharp angles.
A tour guide in your palms
“Visitors will first create their own emoji or digital twin on the mobile device received at the entrance before starting the tour,” added Yu. Here begins the journey of the future of mobility as seen through the eyes of the country.
Your handy mobile guide will help you make the most of the several interactive exhibits placed along the way such as flap vision, mobile augmented reality (AR), vertical cinema and kinetic sculpture. On the ground floor, an open space called the ‘madang’ (Korean for courtyard) features escalators and elevators that transport visitors to the next floor. But it also doubles as an entertainment venue.
“In [this space], visitors can rest while enjoying the indoor view of the pavilion or watch a fusion performance that combines the tradition and modern culture of Korea,” said Yu.
Sing along to Stray Kids and other K-Pop acts
We reckon it an impossible feat to draw up a Korean pavilion plan without paying homage to the global phenomenon that put K-Pop tunes on millions of playlists around the world. The country is home to big acts ranging from the quartet girl group Blackpink to the long-running solo artist BoA, and there is no better way to connect with visitors at a World Expo than by tapping into Korea’s irresistible popular culture.
“We come across people [in the UAE] who learned the Korean language casually and often sense a favourable interest in Korean culture … We hope Dubai Expo helps to spread the influence of Hallyu further,” said Yu.
In June KOTRA appointed the eight-member boy group Stray Kids as the official ambassadors of the pavilion. Yu pointed out that the K-Pop stars have amassed 34 million followers on social media, making the 2018-act the face of Korea’s participation in Dubai.
If you are a fan and have been jaded about not seeing your favourite groups live in the region, then mark your calendars for January 16, 2022. Commemorating Korea’s Expo-allotted national day, a K-Pop concert will be held at the Jubilee Park’s open-air performance space at 7.30pm on the dot. According to Yu, “famous Korean idol stars [have been] invited and [are looking] forward to meeting K-Pop fans in UAE”.
“Besides [the national day concert], at the Republic of Korea Pavilion, traditional Korean dance performances and K-pop concerts [will be] staged ten times a day,” he added.
Korea Week, January 16 to 20, 2022
At Expo, five days from January 16 to 20, 2022, have been slotted as Korea Week to put on display choice aspects of the multifaceted country.
Celebrations for the national day will begin at Al Wasl Plaza, the centrepiece of the Expo site, where an official ceremony will be followed by a cultural performance. The audience is then invited to a tour of the Korea Pavilion.
During this period, the pavilion will host the Korea Innovative Tech Fair 2022 and Korea Travel Fair at the Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC). Visitors can even watch K-Pop dance covers, Samul-nori (a traditional percussionist performance) and more at Expo’s Sea Stage located in the Mobility District.
Dig into bulgogi and patbingsu
On the second floor of the pavilion you can find a dedicated restaurant for all your Korean food cravings. Chef James Kang, head chef at Sonamu Restaurant of Asiana Hotel in Dubai, is bringing visitors traditional bibimbap (rice mixed with assorted vegetables), galbi (marinated beef ribs) and bulgogi (marinated sliced beef).
For those looking to snack, there is even the Buldak (literally ‘fire chicken’), stir-fried noodles – a taste of modern Hallyu food. While coffee and other beverages are a given, try the famous sweet and cold Korean dessert here called patbingsu, which is a miniature hill of shaved ice in a bowl topped with sweetened red beans.
For takeaways there is a souvenir shop on the first floor offering visitors cosmetics and traditional crafts, including costumes and jewellery.
“Visitors will be divided into smart queueing and walk-in groups. Walk-in groups will be encouraged to use the smart queueing system to book the visit as part of measures to minimize the waiting line,” Yu said in reference to the guidelines set by Expo 2020 Steering Committee.
Additionally, mobile devices handed to each visitor will be thoroughly sterilised before and after. Measures also include temperature checks at the entrance of the pavilion.
“COVID-19 did not affect the overall pavilion concept because the original idea was around a semi-open structure and space for virtual reality experience,” he added.