Busan puts money on BTS, ARMY to win World Expo 2023 bid


The BTS members have been appointed as goodwill ambassadors for Busan's campaign bid to host the World Expo 2023. — ROB LATOURS/Shutterstock

Busan is set to host a major event in October: A BTS concert.

This performance, highly anticipated by fans of the K-pop band, is posing challenges for the largest city on the South Korean coast, both in terms of accommodation and transportation.

Busan expects fans of BTS, commonly known as ARMY, to flock to see their idols. Especially since the group announced in June that it would be taking a break so that each of its seven young members can focus on their solo careers. They will all be back on stage together on Oct 15, for a major concert that the city is staging in support of its bid to host World Expo 2023.

And competition is tough.

Rome in Italy and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia are both in the running to host the international event. Some countries, such as France, Morocco, Algeria and Cape Verde, have already announced their support for the candidacy of the Saudi capital. But the South Korean authorities have not said their last word on the matter. They are relying on the Asian country's economic success to tip the scales in its favour, as well as on the hallyu wave.

This cultural wave, which includes South Korean films, music and TV series, has swept the world thanks to talents like BTS. As such, it's no wonder the boy band's members have been appointed as goodwill ambassadors for the Busan bid.

Infrastructure challenges

The city is pulling out all the stops for the band's concert. It will be held in a special venue in the northeastern part of Gijang County. The Busan Metropolitan Government estimates that 100,000 fans will come to see the band's performance.

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But is the city ready to handle such an influx of fans? That remains to be seen.

Accommodation is being snapped up with less than a month to go before the show, and prices are soaring. Hotels in Busan have come under fire for overcharging for rooms in the run-up to the event, according to the Korea Times. Some have reportedly multiplied their rates by 20 or 30 times, while others have cancelled long-standing bookings in order to take advantage of the price surge.

These more than dubious commercial practices have attracted the wrath of BTS' (powerful) fans. Several of them have filed complaints with the Busan Metropolitan Government and the Korean Fair Trade Commission, according to the national daily news outlet.

In addition, there is the risk of transport saturation, whether by air or rail. The local authorities have announced their intention to increase the number of flights between the airports of Seoul and Busan, as well as the number of trains to the Korean port city – proof that nothing is too much for BTS fans. – AFP Relaxnews

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