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Korea opportunities: South Korea in focus

Asia Features
Korea opportunities: South Korea in focus

As host of the 1988 Olympic Games, 2002 World Cup and 2005 APEC Summit, South Korea prides itself on not only offering spirit and colour across its country, but also service from the initial stage to the final endings of a project.

With a population of approximately 50.6m, the South East Asian powerhouse has a high-income economy, yet still manages to maintain a delicate balance between preserving its history and traditions, and embracing all the technology and culture of the modern world.

Global DMC Pacific World revealed South Korea as its number one Asian destination for business events enquiries in its latest Destination Index.

“South Korea being identified as one of the top destinations has been an interesting result,” said Harsha Krishnan, strategic development director at Pacific World.

“Creative and well-executed promotional campaigns have helped to overcome the North Korea threat-related issues from the previous years that had drastically affected tourism. The geopolitical situation became less volatile in 2014, thereby increasing the sense of security for tourists in South Korea. The growth of the Chinese middle class and the improved visa facilities to access South Korea have also impacted the overall inbound MICE business.”

Pacific World’s South Korea country manager, Ej Fieldhouse, notes : “VISA exemption for USA travellers, the wide offer of direct flights to Seoul and the presence of Korean brands’ headquarters in the United States has generated growth in MICE business from this market.”

Capital city Seoul boasts hyper-modern skyscrapers, pop culture, Buddhist temples and high-tech subways. It captured fourth place in the 2013 International Meetings Statistics Report released by the Union of International Associations (UIA).

Since 2010, the city has remained in the UIA world top five for three consecutive years.

Korea sits 17th in the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) latest Country Rankings statistics report for 2014 with 222 qualifying meetings.


Most of the cities in Korea are geared up for global events, each hosting a wide range of major conferences and congresses.

Busan in October comes alive with festivals and events. South Korea’s second largest city after Seoul, with a population of approximately 3.6m, Busan hosts the International Film Festival (BIFF), the Fireworks Festival, the Jagalchi Festival and Mackerel Festival.

BIFF has become a global film party and the Fireworks Festival fills the night sky with a kaleidoscope of lights. This is one of the ways the country successfully brings together different cultures in one place at the Global Gathering and an array of festivities give the Chinatown Zone Culture Festival energy.

Most recently, BIFF celebrated its 20th edition with a total audience of 220,000 from 79 countries, including global buyers for the annual BIFF Asian Film Market, held at the Busan Cinema Center.

The venue offers multipurpose hall sizes of 941sqm with 200-inch screens.

Designed by Austrian architects, the Busan Cinema Center claims to be Korea’s only deconstructively styled artwork, comprising three buildings in one, including The Cinemountain, BIFF Hall and the Double Cone, with two large roofs.

The cantilever roof is the world’s largest, with an outdoor plaza capable of seating 4,300 people. The exterior boasts 42,000 LED lights which synchronise to create great visual displays.

For cutting-edge technology and larger meeting spaces, Korea’s newly expanded Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO) hosted the 55,000-strong International Lions’ Convention in the heart of the city’s convention district.

With 90,000sqm of event space spanning seven floors and one underground level, the management says BEXCO’s halls and 22 conference rooms could house five football fields.

The venue saw the opening of a new exhibition wing and a 4,000-seat auditorium in 2012.

Busan also gives delegates the option of hosting events and meetings above the water, or below it. BEXCO’s Yacht B is a luxurious 52-foot sailboat equipped with meetings essentials. Up to 300 guests can marvel at the undersea world while meeting ‘under the water’ of the 80m shark tunnel.

Located right on the coast on Dongbaekseom Island, lies the iconic Nurimaru APEC House, surrounded by natural landscape, dense camellia and pine, and an old-fashioned lighthouse.

Literally named from the combination of the Korean words nuri (‘world’) and maru (‘summit’), and ‘APEC House’, which refers to an APEC conference hall, the venue’s name collectively means ‘a house where the world summits gather together for an APEC meeting’.

A three-storey building, the venue has been used as an international conference hall since the APEC summit meeting in 2005. It is a modern interpretation of jeongja, a pavilion in traditional Korean architectural style, as its roof shape symbolises the ridge line of Dongbaekseom Island.

Since 2005, tourism to the country has doubled from six million annual visitors to over 12m.

Busan’s coast offers plenty of activities to take part in outside of a meeting for delegates. Its five main beaches, Haeundae, Gwangalli, Songjeoing, Songdo and Dadaepo, all offer a wealth of ocean side experiences as diverse as the city itself.

While some aspects of Busan appear

to belong to the future, some areas seem almost lost in time.

The Haedong Yonggungsa coastal temple is one of Korea’s most spirital sites and a rare spot for tourists as most temples are in the mountains. Many come to this spot on New Year’s Day to make a wish as they watch the sun come up.

First built in 1376, Haesu Gwaneum Daebul (Seawater Great Goddess Buddha), Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary, Yongwangdang Shrine, Gulbeop Buddhist Sanctum (enclosed in a cave), and a three-story pagoda with four lions all overlook the ocean.


Daegu is the fourth largest city in the country, with 2.5m residents. It boasts a state-of-the-art exhibition and convention centre, EXCO. It first opened in 2001 and was remodelled in 2011.

EXCO has been hosting events with a focus mainly on regional specialised industries including textile, machinery, glasses, renewable energy, and cutting-edge display..

The centre has five stories above ground, while extending four levels below and has hosted a series of international conferences including World Energy Congress Daegu 2013 and the seventh World Water Forum 2015.

EXCO president Park Chong-man says: “During the World Water Forum, EXCO was highly evaluated by organisers and participants as an optimal convention centre due to its efficient flow of movement.

“By reinforcing the existing facilities, EXCO can now guarantee some of the world’s best services.”

It is also planning to host the 17th International Symposium on Adapted Physical Activity, 10th IBRO World Congress of Neuroscience 2019 and World Gas Conference Daegu 2021.

With 22,159sqm of exhibition space, a grand ballroom, a 4,000-seat convention hall, a1,300-seat auditorium and a total of 24 conference rooms, EXCO can provide mid-to-large exhibitions and conventions at the same time.

EXCO’s management claims the venue embodies Korea’s emphasis on green growth and eco-friendly buildings.

There is a 222 kW photovoltaic system on site – the largest in a single building; 122 solar daylighting panels – which lightens the exhibition hall without electricity; a 27 RT-capacity geothermal heating and cooling system; and a 204sqm solar water heating system.

Together, the systems generate 1,618,220kWh of electricity every year and this has the equivalent effect of planting 271,900 pine trees every year.

Organisers can also use space in the city’s Daegu Gyeongbuk Design Center, Daegu Textile Complex, The Athletics Promotion Center, Daegu Art Factory and the Daegu National Museum.


The new smart city of Incheon was built from scratch on 600 hectares of reclaimed land along the waterfront. The third largest city in Korea was the first national port.

It is a gateway, welcoming visitors from both Incheon Airport and Incheon Seaport. Located near the airport, Songdo ConvensiA was the first project completed in Songdo International Business District (Songdo IBD) and opened for business on 7 October 2008. Spanning 54,000sqm, it is a convention centre set over five floors. It features the Convensia lounge, business centre, outdoor grass plaza, cafeteria, post office, shop and bank. The venue also features 2,304sqm of meeting rooms (10-23 rooms with flexible partitions), a 1,716sqm ballroom, and a 8,416sqm exhibition hall.

Six luxury hotels, including traditional Korean house-style and international chain hotels, surround the centre. Attractions include Songdo Central Park, the Northeast Asia Tower, and the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club.

Incheon is also the home for 13 international organisations including World Bank Korea Office.