South Korea: Modern, Forward-Thinking, and Tech-Savvy

Seoul's fast pace, efficiency, and connectivity make it an energizing option for groups

Korea Seoul night street

Bringing a meeting to South Korea might surprise you -- in the best ways. That was the case for Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, director of meetings for the International & American Association for Dental Research (IADR). She is organizing a general session for up to 6,000 attendees in Seoul next June for the first time.

"Personally, I was very taken aback by how Western the city of Seoul is, and how modern and high-tech it is," Zeck says. "In my room, I could rent a Samsung smartphone and mobile hotspot right there. Wi-Fi is everywhere."

Zeck adds that the surrounding amenities near COEX Convention and Exhibition Center, were an added benefit. "Because we take this meeting all over the world, you don't always have the luxury of a convention center with adjacent hotels -- and public transportation, too. But here in Korea, you do." The adjacent InterContinental Seoul COEX will serve as the headquarters hotel for her group.

Korea's hotel scene is also vibrant, with new group-friendly properties. In July, business travel-oriented, 319-room Shilla Stay opened in Seoul's Seodaemun-gu district, a 10-minute walk from Gyeongbokgung and Deoksugung and Gyeonghui-gung palaces. In October, the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul is scheduled to open with 317 rooms and more than 23,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Next year, Hyatt Place will open a location in Dongdaemun, Seoul, with 204 rooms.

The fact that the historic Bongeunsa Temple is just across the street from COEX is also a plus, Zeck says, especially for attendees who want to have a cultural experience. The variety of nearby international food options was another big draw for her group.  

When deciding where to bring the 94th General Session & Exhibition of the IADR, Zeck says she also considered Singapore and Sydney, but what prompted her to sign with Seoul was "the support from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and Seoul Convention Bureau, which will help offset the cost of our meeting there. We also had strong support from local dental schools and members within all of Korea."

Financial and promotional marketing support remains a main pillar for both tourism organizations. Last month, Seoul Convention Bureau announced five new incentives to attract business events, including the expansion of its MICE Support programs for meeting and incentive groups of more than 50 who are visiting the city for at least two consecutive nights through June 30, 2016.  

Zeck has had extensive experience organizing international conventions for thousands. Last year's IADR meeting was in Cape Town, South Africa, for example. But she says her experience thus far with Seoul has been "really positive."

Language barriers, for example, are not a major concern. "Everyone I've encountered spoke very good English, and all of the communication is in English," she says. "It's very easy to communicate."

Planners concerned about a recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) earlier this year, will also be relieved to note that the country's prime minister officially announced the outbreak to be over on July 28 -- 23 days after the last suspected case and with no new cases reported.  

Zeck, for her part, says she is excited to be heading back to Seoul in 2016. Her advice to other meeting planners? "I just think everyone should add Korea to their list for consideration."

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This article appears in the September 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.