Conference & Meetings World Issue 102 - Page 32

South Korea Seoul’s skyscraping business ambitions are dizzying, but one of its biggest attractions is how down to earth the residents are. We’ve rarely visited a safer or more spacious capital city, or one more welcoming to international delegates. A late-night karaoke session, ideally with some chimek (fried chicken and beer) is an essential Seoul experience for visitors. We spend our final evening in the capital exploring the neon-soaked streets of the Songpa district, before belting out a terrible rendition of Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’ after a few too many rice wines. Perfect. Left: Nurimaru APEC House on the coast of Busan Below: The 160m flagpole in ‘propaganda village’, on the open wound, splitting relatives not just across an impassable border, but also across 60 years of estrangement. “In South Korea, we all pray for unification,” she says. “But we know that it will not come from war. If the US, or another country, were to invade North Korea and topple Chairman Kim’s regime, the country would be left in a state of economic disaster. “The only way we can unify the two nations is to slowly trickle in business, and forge connections between North and South.” apartment blocks, constructed with corporate sponsorship. Our tour takes us to the 123rd floor of Lotte World Tower, the sixth tallest building in the world, and tallest in South Korea. From the observatory here, the geometric rows of Seoul’s many business districts are slotted into place like tiny Tetris pieces. The tower offers meeting rooms in the Signiel hotel between floors 76 and 101, as well as a large convention space on the 31st floor. Continuing the trend for scale, Coex – South Korea’s busiest convention centre – finished constructing its latest attraction in 2017: a public library containing a 13-metre tall bookshelf and 50,000 books. The Starfield Library is located in the lower floors of a building which offers 55 meeting rooms with thumb-print recognition, as well as cafes, restaurants, a casino and two connected hotels. As CMW visits, the very early stages of construction are also beginning for the new, 105-floor Hyundai Global Business Center, which is located just outside Coex. It is set to finish in 2023, containing a 70,000sqm convention centre with six floors. These new facilities will add even more spectacle to the already bustling, world-famous Gangnam district. Follow the leader If the MICE and tourism industries can offer a potential road towards economic development for the North, then South Korea can serve as a shining example of where that road leads. CMW’s tour of the country begins in the capital – a vibrant, technologically advanced and highly organised metropolis. Seoul is a wealthy city, and its greater metropolitan area is home to 9.75 million people, almost a fifth of South Korea’s population. The city contains the headquarters of international South Korean businesses like Samsung and Hyundai, and their company logos are emblazoned on the sides of neatly arranged and uniformly designed 32 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / ISSUE 102 Beer festivals on Cooking Pot Mountain Leaving Seoul behind, our second stop is the coastal city of Busan, on the country’s south-eastern tip. Translated literally, Busan means “Cooking Pot Mountain”, a name derived from the shape of the peak which sits behind its main port - one of the busiest in the world. The city, which snakes around a number of mountains on South Korea’s rocky coast, is a hub of both industry and culture. It hosts the Busan International Film Festival every year inside the mind-bending constructivist architecture of Busan Cinema Centre, and is also home to South Korea’s famous Haeundae Beach. MICE is a thriving industry in Busan, which contains a number of unique venues and is the fastest growing convention city in the world. The stunning Nurimaru APEC House was constructed in 2005 to host the APEC Summit, an important political meeting between countries in the Asia-Pacific region. World leaders including George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin gathered around the ornate roundtable on the venue’s top floor, which breaks out into a series of lounges with 360-degree views of the harbour. The Busan Exhibition and Convention Centre (BEXCO) is another important venue for the city, having played host to 4.4m visitors in 2018 across a large North Korean side of the DMZ