Expo 2020: Republic of Korea Pavilion

South Korean student Gayoung Lee previews her home country’s pavilion at Expo 2020.

The Republic of Korea pavilion is located within the Mobility District at Expo 2020, lodged between Thailand and Belgium. Shaped somewhat like a triangular fort, with spinning cubes decorating its slanted walls, the pavilion is made up of three colors — red, yellow, and blue to symbolize balance and direction in South Korea. The movement from the cubes was a tribute to the 2002 Seoul World Cup.

Gayoung Lee, NYU Abu Dhabi Class of 2022 at the Republic of Korea pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020.
Korea Pavilion at Expo 2020.

With the recent explosion of South Korean success in entertainment such as the Netflix show Squid Game and the popular boy band BTS, the South Korean pavilion at the Dubai Expo is easily one of the largest and most crowded. During the weekends, the waiting time trumps popular Disneyland attractions with an average of four to five hours. Even with Expo’s smart queue option, spots are taken up quickly unless you’ve remembered to reserve your spot several days in advance. 

The first thing you’ll see upon entering the pavilion is a large amphitheatre — or what Koreans would call a “madang”.

The madang - a large amphitheater at the Korea Pavilion at Expo 2020.

This madang is the stage for a bihourly performance featuring both traditional and modern South Korean dance. Head upstairs, you will find the South Korean Tourism Organization promoting Busan’s bid for the 2030 World Expo and on the floor above that, a Korean restaurant awaits the hungry visitors. 

In the main exhibition area, the South Korean pavilion displays three exhibits with the theme of mobility of the future. A device with an avatar will be your tour guide for the space where you can take photos with special frames. The path to the next exhibit also offers a nice bird’s-eye view of the entire Expo ground. 

In the mobile augmented reality exhibit, visitors get a glimpse of the future in mobility. Scan a QR code and point your device to the sky, flying taxis appear with drones drifting in the distance.

The pavilion is thoughtfully aware that visitors entering the final exhibit are likely to be feeling tired from all the walking.

And so, it presents a vertical cinema in an indoor theater with large bean bags where visitors can enjoy an immersive virtual experience of South Korea. I personally enjoyed the short film as it successfully presents our traditional culture, but in a youthful and refined manner. 

While the ideas presented in the South Korea pavilion do not come across as new or surprising to me, I am still impressed by the scale and organization of the exhibits as well as the unified message from the South Korean government on my country’s long-term emphasis in developing mobility technology.

Vertical cinema at the Korea Pavilion at Expo 2020.

It is definitely worth a visit for anyone who would like to learn more about the Republic of Korea and its vision.