Which Korea? / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The dancing robots at the South Korean pavilion at the Havana International Fair
The dancing robots at the South Korean pavilion at the Havana International Fair (4ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 7 November 2015 – So which Korea is it that has a pavilion here? A woman asked this of a uniformed guide at the International Fair of Havana. The man, friendly and solicitous, turns to the huge welcome sign at the entrance, looks at it as if he’s seeing it for the first time and answers, “Which Korea will it be madam? What you said I believe is written with a “K.”

The woman enters, followed by many others visiting the site, to look at the brand new Hyundi cars, or to admire the agricultural machinery, the Samsung technological products, the drinks, and to simply enjoy the display of small robots that dance and jump to the beat of the music.

The 9,500 square-foot pavilion is managed by the South Korea Agency for Trade Promotion and Investment (KOTRA). The Asian country has brought this time a delegation of 17 exporting companies of large firms such as Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motors, as well as others such as Global Green and Seasco.

Many who throng in front of the exhibition of products and technology that fill the stand are very excited about the appearance in their lives of all this Korean manufacturing. “My aunt has a Samsung flat screen,” you can hear a boy who has come with his parents and cousins boasting to another. Others detail the latest Galaxy line of phones have come on the market and a woman dreams of a microwave oven from the distant peninsula.

On leaving the place, no one doubts that this display does not come from the Democratic Republic of Korea. They know because they have not seen a single picture of the Kim family, or a photo of any sculpture where someone raises a threatening fist or points towards an imaginary dazzling future. But also because business representatives moving through the halls do it with ease and freedom and do not ask anyone if they work for a State enterprise.

In this 33rd edition 33 of the International Fair, the most uptight are the Cubans, especially the officials because the gorgeous models pose happily for the cameras. The opening days were invitation-only and it was just on Friday that the doors were opened to the public. It is hard to believe that with the capital’s transportation problems so many people decided to go to the ExpoCuba fairgrounds.

Nearly a thousand companies from 20 countries exhibited their products here. Canada, Germany, Spain and Mexico are the pavilions attracting the most people but Korea’s has something special that nobody wants to miss. After asking several people why so many people visit this site, a young man gave me a surprising answer: “I came to see them, because Cubans are going to have to learn to be Koreans.”