After months of preparation, the big event has arrived – Seoul is hosting the Group of 20 or G-20 Summit this week, and 24 heads of state, the presidents of the European Commission and Council, and seven leaders of major international organizations (not to mention top business leaders), are all in Seoul to attempt to do nothing less than lift the globe out of financial crisis.
But, in a city as huge as Seoul, a good question is – where will they meet? While most of Seoul’s historic palaces and neighborhoods are located north of the Han River (한강), the more modern southern districts are better suited for the logistics challenge posed by the G20 Summit.
And no single venue in the city is more accustomed to hosting large events than the Convention and Exhibition Center, better known as COEX (코엑스).
The massive complex consists of 12 separate major facilities, including huge exhibition halls, the underground COEX mall, entertainment facilities, two InterContinental hotels and even an airport terminal.
Standing outside the center, large banners welcoming G20 participants hang from the sides of the center and iconic Trade Tower.
Inside, the Center’s third floor is where the major summit meetings will take place. The first floor is the International Media Center (IMC).
As the name implies, the IMC is equipped with facilities and services in 14 languages for the 4,000 registered reporters from 63 countries who have come to Seoul to cover the G20 Summit.
The center includes 1,330 wired workstations and Digital Information Displays showing live broadcasts of Summit ceremonies and programs. For security and convenience, each registration badge includes a radio frequency identification badge, or RFID.
In the lobby is perhaps the most conspicuous attraction, a digital version of Cheomseongdae (첨성대), Asia’s oldest astronomical observatory located in Gyeongju.
In addition to the main event taking place in COEX is the two-day Business Summit attended by prominent CEOs and executives from companies like Infosys, Vestas and HSBC. These events are held at the Seoul Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel.
Of course, the G20 Seoul Summit isn’t only about high-intensity meetings. It’s also about showcasing Seoul and Korea to the world.
And to demonstrate Korean hospitality, on Tuesday, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon hosted a welcome dinner for international press at Fradia (프라디아), a floating restaurant and convention facility located in the Jamwon (잠원) section of the Hangang Park system.
The attractive location offered floor to ceiling views of the river, as well as a 5-course meal and live entertainment. The evening also included a presentation and Q&A session hosted by the mayor himself.
Finally, it would be a shame if conference facilities were the only parts of Seoul seen by the thousands of Summit participants.
So, to help members of the press to see the city’s best sights, 12 press tour courses were organized around diverse themes, such as “Seoul Design Studio,” “Hangang River Tour” and “IT Seoul.”
Tours depart from the Jamsil Sports Complex (종합운동장), and it seems appropriate that the site of the 1988 Olympic Games is being used for Seoul’s latest international event!
So there you have it, a roundup of the major venues being used to host this week’s G20 Seoul Summit.
About Matt Kelley
Matt Kelly is native of the US Pacific Northwest and is half-Korean by ethnicity. He lived in Korea for five years and has written hundreds of travel guides for Wallpaper, TimeOut, the Boston Globe and Seoul Magazine and was a host for several different variety shows on Korean radio and television.