I flew into Incheon airport outside Seoul just ninety minutes after North Korea bombarded the small island of YeonPyeong, killing two soldiers and at least two civilians.
I was due to attend the Korea MICE Expo and co-located Seoul MICE Forum.
In typical stoic Korean fashion I didn’t hear about any mishap until the organiser of the trip approached me after a gala dinner, saying my wife and editor had been trying to get hold of me. I asked her why, and she matter-of-factly told me they were worried because of the North’s attack, not far from where I landed.
Having lived in South Korea for three years, I am familiar with how the people there play down threats from the North. It’s hard to say where the disparity in reactions comes from. Perhaps the Western media overhypes each crisis, but on the other hand the Korean press has waged a long battle against government and corporate censorship. Maybe the calm demeanour of our hosts is simply an effort to maintain professionalism, and present the best face to international guests.
Either way, while half the world panicked the MICE event went on without a hitch. In fact, the political tensions were fertile ground for discussing the challenges faced by organisers of international events. ICCA president Martin Sirk said in a talk that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ country, and reminded the audience that even a peaceful city like meek Toronto turned into a hazard area with the outbreak of SARS in 2003.
In the world of international event organising, the important thing is good risk assessment before a problem occurs, and good on-the-ground policies to keep delegates and visitors safe and calm, and carrying on with the business they arrived to do. It’s all part of delivering what has been promised against all odds.
– Mike Trudeau, Staff Writer