Exploring the South Korean capital
Even though we were in a luxury people carrier with darkened windows designed to give the occupants a sense of privacy, the glances, smiles and waves made us feel all the more conspicuous as the vehicle edged around the royal palace end of Gwanghwamun Plaza. As the guide cheerily explained, our luxury vehicle was typical of the type used by K-pop stars, particularly those arriving at the plaza for an open-air concert that evening.
We took our seats behind rows of diplomats, C-suite executives and their families to enjoy an evening of entertainment by some of the K-wave’s most celebrated talent in a concert that also featured a satellite link to the lighting of the Olympic ame 126km away in Pyeongchang, the base for the 2018 Winter Games.
e song-and-dance routines performed may not suit every business traveller’s taste, but K-pop – or hallyu as Koreans call it – has become a solidifying cultural force for the country. A er long years of postwar struggle, South Korea has transformed into an industrial and technological success story; the K-wave has come to symbolise a modern, youthful Korea with artistes
In these days of increasing “bleisure” we are encouraged to ne-tune our work-life balance
happy to celebrate the “Miracle along the Han River”.
Whether the experience you seek is hallyu-inspired or not, Seoul Tourism Organisation has an impressive array of services and partners that business event visitors can tap into. Our “covert” minilimo bus, for example, came from one of the companies in the Seoul MICE Alliance, an increasing band of suppliers (presently standing at 260 members) ranging from luxury hotels and restaurants to theatre groups and department stores. Services provided can be tailored to a small team of executives or delegations numbering in the hundreds.
Seoul is no stranger to the legions of business travellers who y to Incheon, usually to check on the shipbuilding industry or what has just come o the drawing board at Samsung, LG or the bevy of digital companies that are making South Korea so competitive on the global stage.
But in these days of increasing “bleisure”, as we are encouraged to
ne-tune that work-life balance, Seoul Tourism Organisation is o ering more in this direction.
“One More Trip” is one such scheme that o ers travellers a chance to experience Korean culture and pastimes. So it was back into the limo bus for a trip to the suburbs of west Seoul and the K-Cooking Class, based in the home of Chris Joo, whose cosy apartment is spacious enough for a show kitchen with worktops for up to six wannabe chefs.
As we learned, there is a well-ordered presentation of dishes in Korean cuisine, a format that stems from the days of the royal court. Careful consideration is also given to balance, not only the avours, but the colour, textures, and even the side dishes. But the real bene ts of adding such
a programme to a MICE trip was evident when we sat around Joo’s dining-room table: a rousing sense of team spirit and satisfaction in creating a hearty lunch, however small the part you may have played in terms of culinary prowess.
Other holistic experiences on offer include the Solgaheon Healing Café, which offers footbaths and medicinal herbal tea; a tour of the Samhae Korean brewery, and – if you haven’t had your fill of hallyu – K-pop recording sessions and make-up classes.
Also featured on the One More Trip online platform are walking tours such as taking a stroll along one of Seoul’s latest, and typically innovative, parks. Seoullo 7017 is a former flyover road from Seoul Station that was built in the 1970s to ease traffic congestion. Fast forward to mid-2017, and the pedestrian haven designed by a Dutch consultancy has been repurposed with popup outlets operated by youthfully creative start-ups.
Another new opening comes in the form of South Korea’s tallest building, the 123-floor Lotte World Tower. From the six-storey Seoul Sky observation section, which starts on the 117th level, you can take in majestic 360-degree views of Seoul. On level 123 is a high-end lounge, while cafés, observation decks and Sky Deck with an open-air platform can be found on the floors below. The tower also houses the Signiel luxury hotel on floors 76 to 101, featuring a grand ballroom with a capacity for 300, plus Studio I-IV with four venues. More than halfway down from the hotel is Sky31 with swish office space and a small auditorium.
Another addition to Seoul’s visitor options is the Grévin Museum, France’s famous wax museum dating back 135 years. Its first Asia outlet opened in the Jung-gu area of Seoul less than three years ago, and now offers a selfie-taking paradise. One of the interactive sections of the museum is the Discovery Atelier where you can learn about Grevin’s production methods by using 3D scanning to create your own wax figures. Grévin Seoul’s Hall of Fame can also be used for a nightclub-themed event where groups can mingle with “celebrities” ranging from Psy, G-Dragon and other K-pop stars to Mick Jagger, Madonna and Marilyn Monroe.
Grévin may have given South Korea its first wax museum, but the nation’s cultural and historic treasures can be found at the National Museum of Korea, in Yongsangu, near the Shilla, Grand Hyatt and the new Seoul Dragon City “hotelplex”. South Korea’s longest-serving museum moved to a new building in 2005, on a site formerly used by the US Army. It has evolved into a world-class complex that hosted a G20 dinner and offers space for indoor and outdoor events, and conferences.
The six-storey Seoul Sky Observation section starts on the 117th floor, with 360-degree city views
PREVIOUS PAGE: Gwanghwamun PlazaCLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Seoullo 7017 park; Solgaheon Healing Café’s medicinal herbal teas and food baths; and Samhae Korean traditional brewery
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Lotte World Tower; Seoul Dragon City; JW Marriott Dongdaemum Square; and Grévin Museum