SUNCHEON, South Korea, March 31 (Yonhap) -- The southwestern city of Suncheon kicked off an international garden exhibition Friday to showcase diverse types of garden cultures and promote the rich biodiversity of its ecosystems.
The Suncheonman International Garden Expo 2023 will run for seven months until the end of October, taking place at Suncheon Bay National Garden and other venues throughout the city, located about 415 kilometers south of Seoul.
Suncheon is known as the ecological capital of the nation due to its splendid green landscapes and well-preserved tidal wetlands.
The midsized city first gained international recognition as a green tourism destination in 2013, when it successfully hosted the first edition of the horticultural festival, attracting over 4.3 million visitors from home and abroad.
"Suncheon has turned itself into an ecological and garden city with the philosophy that ecology revitalizes the economy," President Yoon Suk Yeol said in his congratulatory remarks during the opening ceremony.
He promised active support from the central government for the city's efforts to boost the local economy through tourism projects.
"Gardens are cultural and artistic works utilizing nature as well as spaces for relaxation where people can enjoy a healthy daily life. They are also places for carbon-neutrality efforts to respond to the climate crisis and tourist destinations visited by many people," he added.
A total of 30,000 people, including officials, politicians and citizens, attended the opening ceremony, which also featured music, dance and media art shows.
In his welcoming address, Gov. Kim Yung-rok of South Jeolla Province pledged to build a world-class coastal tourism belt centered on Suncheon Bay National Garden and its coastal tidal flat wetland.
The human-made garden, measuring about 1 million square meters, opened in 2013 and was designated as the country's first national garden in 2015. It was created as a buffer to protect Suncheon Bay from the impact of urban development.
The coastal wetland in the bay was registered in 2006 with the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty to protect marshes.
Suncheon's terrestrial and wetland ecosystems were designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2018.
The international exhibition will showcase a total of 93 types of gardens, including urban gardens, technology-powered future gardens, a botanical garden devoted to Suncheon's native flora and a garden floating on the water.
Through exhibits, tours, forums and entertainment shows, the festival also aims to inspire the value of plants for human beings and the planet while offering a glimpse into the future of eco-friendly urban life, the organizing committee said.
The inaugural expo in 2013 focused on the national garden area, but this year's event will take place all across Suncheon, including the wetland and downtown areas, with active participation from citizens, it said.