Ex­plor­ing the South Korean cap­i­tal

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS - WORDS MARTIN DONO­VAN

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

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