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2012/05/12 15:28 KST
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Obama sends congratulatory message for Yeosu Expo opening

YEOSU, South Korea, May 12 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday sent a congratulatory message for the opening of the Yeosu Expo and expressed a close bond to its maritime theme, saying he grew up living by the sea.

   Images of sea life and the marine environment floated across a large water screen as Obama spoke in a video message projected onto it. The speech marked the opening of the U.S. Pavilion at the 2012 World Expo, which opened in the southern coastal city of Yeosu, 455 kilometers south of Seoul, early in the day. The global fair, themed "The Living Ocean and Coast," has drawn the participation of 104 countries, 10 international organizations and numerous companies.

   "Growing up in Hawaii, where the ocean is sacred, I learned that our beaches are where our families and communities come together," Obama said. "Living in Indonesia -- a nation of thousands of islands -- I saw our dependence on the waters around us."

   He also reflected on how his current roles in the government and in his family have affected his perspective of the seas.

   "As president, I know that our nations are not separated by great oceans -- we are bound by them. As a father, I want to make sure that this incredible bounty is preserved for my daughters and generations to come," he said.

   Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also stressed the importance of the marine environment.

   "From food security to commerce to national security and climate change, our oceans and coasts hold the key to our future," she said in a separate video message. "For centuries, oceans kept people apart, but today, as we look for solutions to the world's greatest challenges, they are bringing people closer together. "

   The three-month Expo is set to run through Aug. 12 and attract several million visitors to various cultural, educational and high-tech programs and events, including at the country's largest aquarium built to house a total of 33,000 marine animals of 280 species.

   Opening the U.S. pavilion, U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Sung Kim said the Expo is "yet another indication of the miraculous growth of Korea and its growing influence on the international scene."