Conference & Meetings World Issue 102 - Page 33

South Korea number of conferences and exhibitions. It contains a total 26,000sqkm of event space, and is currently in the process of bidding for the 2030 World Expo. As CMW arrives, however, the venue is in the early stages of set-up for something a bit different: a craft beer festival. Beer festivals prove to be a recurring theme in Busan. The next stop on our tour takes us to KNN Tower Plaza, where we are dropped off at the Centum Beer Festival. We get a taste of authentic Korean hospitality as a group of drunk businessmen come over to toast our drinks, before we make our way to the stage at the front of the festival. The bright lights and glitter of K-pop are in full effect here, where a crowd of Right: Paper lanterns inside Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju Below: Barbed wire fences leading up to the observatory inside the DMZ “ There is a possibility of bridging the line in the sand with a weapon more powerful than military might: business.” adoring fans know all the lyrics and choreographed dance moves to a series of artists. The highlight, without question, is Psy Burger – an overweight version of the ‘Gangnam Style’ star who smashes through a series of cover songs, while a five-metre-tall inflatable likeness of himself wobbles about on stage. Psy Burger is an unstoppable crowd pleaser, and delivers a seemingly endless encore to a delirious audience, threatening to end the set after each song. But the hits just keep coming, and Psy Burger gives us a suitably glamorous send-off to our time exploring Busan. Incheon. “It is Incheon City’s ultimate goal to become a representative MICE destination in Northeast Asia, with an international business-friendly environment. MICE business can stimulate the local economy with its huge economic impact.” An international outlook At every turn, the technological advancements of South Korea are a stark contrast with the North. When our tour bus takes us up to the DMZ, North Korea is identifiable by its barren hillsides: the country’s residents still cut wood for fire, having limited access to electricity. But South Korea’s north-western city of Incheon, which is host of the 2019 Korea MICE Expo and the country’s main gateway airport, is full of the spirit of international collaboration. The city’s Songdo district, full of shiny new skyscrapers and cultural centres, is a perfect example of how foreign business can lead to economic prosperity. The South Korean government has designated the region as a tax haven, called the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ). International businesses which move their headquarters to IFEZ are not taxed, as part of an incentive to drive growth in this upcoming region of the country. IFEZ, which has been ranked as the world’s safest city, is home to a diverse group of residents from many continents. The MICE Bureau at the Incheon Tourism Organisation says international MICE business is at the top of the agenda in the region. A spokesperson commented: “MICE business has great importance to Incheon, since it is the place where MICE first started in Korea. Our country’s first expressway, and it’s first western-style hotel, were based in ISSUE 102 A brighter future The city of Incheon serves as a microcosm for South Korea as a whole, demonstrating how the country has managed to build a thriving economy, and a varied MICE industry, by working closely with international governments and businesses. International delegates looking to host an event in South Korea are spoiled for choice, whether they want an intimate, premium meeting experience in Busan’s Nurimaru APEC House, or a large-scale conference in Seoul’s Coex. This wealth of choice is the result of the country’s open-door policy to international business, and demonstrates the power of the MICE industry to serve as a catalyst for development. If North Korea’s supreme leader were to take notice, perhaps there is hope that future meetings between the North and the South could be done with a little bit less security - and that the country might be able to change its economic destiny. / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / 33