Korea Moves

30 Nov 2013 by Clement Huang

South Korea’s appeal has possibly never been higher, as starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters such as Cloud Atlas and the hugely successful Korean Wave of TV dramas and K-pop music have all helped mobilise international interest in the country. The tireless promotion by the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO), however, is ensuring that destinations past the capital city are also experiencing increasing attention.

Travellers looking to break out of Seoul’s cosmopolitan temptations can consider Incheon, Daegu, Busan and Daejeon – all of which are attempting to capture a slice of the business traveller market. These destinations offer a wealth of cultural, historical and traditional experiences, plus a solid infrastructure on which to build business relationships.


Location: Home to the award-winning Incheon International Airport, the city of Incheon lies southwest of Seoul. Along its waterfront is Songdo International Business District (IBD) – a rapidly expanding eco-friendly business hub. A decade ago, the US$35 billion reclamation project by US developer Stan Gale was still in blueprint form. Now, the 6 sq km IBD is combined with greater Songdo, including the Cheongna district and Yeongjong Island, to comprise the Incheon Free Economic Zone.

Industries: Incheon serves as an important logistics and trade hub. Like the rest of South Korea, Songdo is also on an energy saving mission, and the five-year-old city-scale development has acquired a number of LEED certifications and is considered eco-friendly. Last year Songdo won the bid to host the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF) headquarters, a project that will see the district become home to some 500 UN employees and their families, resulting in a significant economic boom.

Attractions: There is more to Incheon than modern structural developments, however. Even as far back as 475 AD, when the city was part of the Goguryeo Kingdom, it was a lively port, welcoming traders and finally settlers from China and Japan. In the well-preserved concession district, the boundary steps delineate the old border that once separated the Chinese and Japanese concessions.

Travellers keen to experience Incheon’s outdoors and bracing sea breezes have the option of dining on huge clams and succulent seafood in any of the eateries along Eulwangri and Wangsan beaches. On nearby Wolmido Island, the Wolmi Mountain Observatory provides 360-degree views of Incheon Port, Incheon International Airport and Songdo IBD accompanied by a cup of herbal tea.

Event Spaces: While Songdo won’t be fully complete for a few more years, city leaders are working hard to lay the groundwork to attract future global conferences. Songdo’s centrepiece venue is the 54,000 sqm Songdo Convensia, which has a design inspired by the Taebaek Mountains – the largest range on the South Korean peninsula. 

Tomorrow City, one of Songdo’s many impressive structures


Location: This scenic coastal city of 3.5 million is located two hours and ten minutes south of Seoul by high-speed train, or a short flight from several Asian destinations. 

Industries: South Korea’s second-biggest metropolis is home to the fifth-busiest port in the world. Leveraging on this advantage, the city adopts a “we’ve got it all” approach to entice business. It’s a tactic that’s paid off, as the Union of International Associations (UIA) placed Busan fourth in Asia in its yearly ranking and it was also voted one of the world’s 15 best convention cities. 

Attractions:  “Busan is the quintessential melting pot of activity. Here, we have the sea, mountains and rivers. The rhythm of the ocean can be felt here day and night,” says Hugh Kim, director of MICE Busan.

With beautiful and accessible beaches, water sports such as surfing, jet skiing, sailing and scuba diving are readily available in Busan. Nature lovers can birdwatch at one of the sanctuaries, such as Nakdonggang, on the Nakdong River, where white-tailed eagles and black-faced spoonbills can be spotted. Shopaholics can browse Busan’s outdoor markets, such as Gukje for home appliances and clothing. In 2009, local department store Shinsegae was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest, surpassing the previous title holder of Macy’s in New York.

Busan’s nightlife range is wide and varied and found right across the city, from booming clubs that open ’til dawn to quiet bars which allow substantial snacking and still more business talk. The best part is flagging down a taxi, as even during peak hours, it’s relatively easy to find one. Thanks to excellent urban planning, it takes around 30 minutes to reach just about any point in the city when travelling by cab.

Event Spaces: The city is also the address of the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO), one of South Korea’s major events options. Last year, it launched a new exhibition wing and a 4,000-seat auditorium.

Unique venues are abundant in Busan. This includes the Nurimaru APEC House, which hosted presidents and prime ministers from 21 Pacific Rim countries in 2005. Set along the coastline, the three-story structure features elegant meeting halls and more intimate breakout function areas. It is nestled among dense camellia and pine trees marked by scenic walking paths that lead to an old lighthouse. Planners looking for something more dynamic should consider the Busan Aquarium, which can arrange corporate dinners in the shark tunnel area.

Busan by night


Location: In the mid-Southeast of South Korea, about 80 km inland. It is the fourth-largest city in the country and has a population of some 2.5 million.

Industries: A major textile and electronics player and well connected hub, Daegu is also no stranger to regional trade shows and business events.

Attractions: Daegu itself boasts a storied past, which is beautifully showcased in the award-winning “Daegu Walking Tour for Downtown Heritage”. The experience can be taken as a whole 12-stop tour or shortened. Not to be missed in the line-up are the Dongsan Missionary Houses, three well-preserved brick homes of the Chamness, Blair and Switzer families on Cheongna Hill and the Oriental Medicine Market Street, which was established back in 1658 during the Joseon Dynasty following a series of epidemics. Several programmes at the Museum of Oriental Medicine such as footbaths and traditional tea sessions permit visitors to sample vintage remedies and experience rituals.

Event Spaces: The city is keen to grow an international clientele and leading the charge are the professionals at Daegu Exhibition & Convention Center (EXCO) and the Daegu Convention & Visitors Bureau. Working together, they have brought events such as the International Solar Cities Congress, APEC SME Business Forum, World Energy Congress and the IAAF Congress to Daegu.

Daegu’s urban sprawl


Location: In the heart of the country, only 50 minutes away from Seoul by high-speed train. It is the republic’s fifth largest city, and only houses some 1.5 million people. 

Industries: Being at the centre of South Korea makes Daejeon a natural logistics hub, and transport connections are comprehensive. Besides that, its economy focuses on tertiary industries, with IT being one of the fast growing sectors. It also has high-quality medical facilities, containing 25 government-funded research centres, including the Korea Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology, the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine and the top science and engineering college KAIST (the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a huge concentration of medical expertise in the city, which is home to eight hospitals, 1,940 specialised medical institutions and 7,800 medical staff.

Attractions: The provincial state of Chungcheong in which Daejeon is located is home to abundant natural assets. Ginseng is cultivated here, and there are the Yuseong alkaline hot springs and picturesque Chungju lake and mountain range to relax in.

Event Spaces: The central business district of  Yuseong will see some exciting development over the next few years. These include a five-star, 312-room Lotte Hotel, which will be built adjacent to the Daejeon Convention Center and opened March 2014. Two medium-sized business hotels will also be built next to this development. This will create a convenient business park where people can stay and attend conventions or conferences with ease. 

There is also a shopping mall in the vicinity, and there are plans for a Lotte World theme park to be built in place of what is currently the Expo Exhibition Hall, much like the theme park found in Seoul and built by the same home-grown company. The opening date for the 590,000 sqm theme park is set at 2015. 

Expo Bridge at night in Daejeon


ACCESS Since opening in 2001, Incheon International Airport has evolved into one of the region’s busiest and most innovative air hubs, challenging even the perennial travellers’ favourite, Singapore’s Changi Airport, in consumer ratings. ICN serves as the base of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, both of which connect South Korea to practically all parts of the globe. Seoul’s Gimpo Airport, once the country’s main gateway, now mainly hosts domestic services and shuttle flights to Japan plus Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and Beijing Capital Airport. The AREX high-speed train links both airports in 33 minutes.

CLIMATE Korea has four distinct seasons, with wet, humid summers and dry autumn/winter months. Autumn is arguably the most pleasant time of the year to visit, when the blue skies and autumn leaves are a big draw. 

VISA Most foreign visitors are required to arrive in the country with a visa, but many are also permitted visa-free entry for a limited time under a set of conditions. Check www.mofa.go.kr or www.immigration.go.kr for further information and details. 

LANGUAGE The official language is Korean, and most signage is in Korean and English. More of the younger generation speaks English, and learning by phone – short lessons are conducted daily – has become a popular method.

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