South Korea blends centuries-old culture with modern offerings for meetings and events. Seoul, the capital, has approximately 130 hotels and two convention centers, and during a recent visit, I saw firsthand how its variety of activities can appeal to visitors of all interests.
FOR THE ZEN MASTER
Templestay is a cultural program run by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in tandem with several state cultural organizations. The stay includes fasting, silence, and the technique of "putting down your inner desires and attachments," as the organization describes it. Another option is a jjimjilbang, or bath house, providing specialized soaking tubs steeped with mugwort, charcoal, and other materials; and a good, hard salt scrub by attendants. There's even a jjimjilbang at the Incheon International Airport, so travelers can relax and be at peace before they fly.
FOR THE FASHIONISTA
One of the biggest trends in Korea right now? Renting hanbok (traditional Korean costumes) and wandering around historic sites, getting one's picture taken. Our group first saw this phenomenon at Seoul's Gyeongbokgung Palace, where schoolchildren, dressed in fairy colors, lined up in front of the gate. Later we wandered the streets of Bukchon Hanok Village, where the traditional low-roofed (hanok) architecture proliferates; and the appealing neighborhood of Samcheongdong. While women's apparel appears rather similar, men have a surprising diversity of garments (and hats!) with which to be stylin'.
FOR THE FAMILY
Meetings with families will find the city of Yeosu (site of Expo 2012) particularly conducive to engaging toddlers and tweens. In addition to the nearly 41,000-square-foot convention facility are such entertainment options as the Aqua Planet aquarium, a cable car, and most impressive, the "Big O" Show -- a sound-and-light experience that features fire and video projection onto a screen of water. Older children will "dig" Gyeongju's ancient Daereungwon Royal Tombs from the Silla Dynasty. Artifacts uncovered include a stallion painted on birch bark (part of a saddle), a golden crown, and a narrow golden cap.