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ROK to Sing away Its Blues

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 ROK to sing away its blues

A staff member is dressed in traditional fashion at the Republic of Korea Pavilion on Wednesday. [China Daily

BoA and Kang Ta will join a stellar cast of pop stars on Sunday as the Republic of Korea (ROK) looks to end its extended National Pavilion Day celebrations on a high and forget its troubles with its neighbor, officials said on Wednesday.

Japan and ROK chart-topping singer BoA will perform at a Korean Music Festival along with Kang Ta (Ahn Chil-hyun), lead singer of Seoul boy band H.O.T., and members of ROK bands Super Junior and FX at the Expo's Culture Center, they said.

ROK diplomats spent the early part of Wednesday shoring up Sino-ROK relations and looking ahead to 2012, when the coastal city of Yeosu will host a 93-day World Expo. Other events on Wednesday included a fashion show by Greta Lee.

"By cooperating with the organizers here we hope we can boost the number of visitors to the Yeosu Expo to 10 million," said ROK's Sports and Culture Minister Yu In-chon, who attended the press conference wearing a green hanbok, or traditional Korean outfit.

He said the country plans to turn Yeosu, a city on the ROK's southern coast that includes more than 300 islands in its jurisdiction, into an international ocean resort city. As such, one of the themes of the 2012 Expo will be preserving marine ecosystems.

Ironically, the ROK's maritime affairs have grabbed the world's attention this week for other, less enjoyable reasons.

ROK President Lee Myung-bak has demanded an apology from Pyongyang and is threatening sanctions after accusing its neighbor of torpedoing one of Seoul's warships, the Cheonan, in an incident that claimed the lives of 46 sailors in March.

Pyongyang has responded by threatening to sever all ties and end the two sides' non-aggression pact while allegedly ordering its troops to prepare for combat.

"I don't think Pyongyang will do anything beyond its usual brinkmanship," Charm Lee, the German-born president of the Korea Tourism Organization, told China Daily. He has lived in Seoul for more than 30 years.

Korean language, soap operas and music became buzzwords across China and Asia at large several years ago but already the excitement seems to have died down.

Hoping to add fresh momentum to this stalled Koreaphilia, the country has built a vast and complicated national pavilion at the Shanghai Expo that spans roughly 8,000 square meters and is composed of colorful Korean characters. Inside it is filled with interactive, child-oriented exhibits.

Many of these reflect the country's obsession with massive multiplayer online games, coming in the form of computer programs that let users plant virtual seeds, build animated bicycles or explore Korean cuisine.

One wall-sized touch screen goes some way toward aping the technology used by Tom Cruise's character in Minority Report by letting users sling animations around using their hands. Yeosu has an entire underwater-themed room devoted to it, again with a heavy accent on computer game-themed fun.

"The Yeosu Expo will share some of the themes of the Shanghai Expo, such as future cities, but we have a clear strategy of how to make it quite unique," said Yu.

(China Daily May 27, 2010)

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