FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Network in Seoul

by Ellen Clark

May 1, 2017
Magazine / Editorial

MORE THAN 10 MILLION PEOPLE live in Seoul, South Korea’s dynamic capital city, where towering skyscrapers, including Lotte World Tower, the world’s fifth-largest building, rub shoulders with Buddhist temples and ancient palaces. But while the inhabitants respect and remember the past, the city’s main focus in the 21st century is on modern life. No wonder it is rapidly becoming known as one of the world’s most innovative technology-driven cities and claims to be the world’s most wired metropolis with the widespread integration of 4G and WiFi in all stations and subway cars.

Digital Media City is a high-tech complex for digital technologies in downtown Seoul. Housing ubiquitous networked offices, apartments, exhibitions, conference halls and cultural centers, it attracts broadcasting, movies, games, music, e-learning and related industries. In February the science ministry opened the newest addition to the complex. Known as KoVac, it aims to nurture the virtual reality and augmented reality industries as the country aims to become a global powerhouse in these sectors.

Thanks to Seoul’s efficient public transportation system, visitors and locals find it easy to navigate the city. For starters, nine major subway lines run throughout the city; the trains come about every five minutes and are spotlessly clean. Signs in both Korean and English help to make negotiating the subway less daunting for visitors. Buses come in four colors: The green and blue buses work within the city limits, red buses go to the suburbs, and yellow buses run on circular routes in downtown for easy access to major shopping and business areas. Taxis are easily available. If you’re not near a taxi stop (and there are lots of them), you can flag one down from the side of the road.

Geunjeong Hall © ELLEN CLARK

Geunjeong Hall © ELLEN CLARK

In Seoul most business deals and relationships are made, or not, over food and drink. It is always wise to accept an invitation to dinner because this is where South Korean contacts will frequently decide if they want to do business with you.

Korea is home to a heavy drinking culture, and many Korean businesspeople feel they will get to know a business partner, colleague or customer better over a few drinks. Hence, bars and clubs are popular venues for business entertaining. It’s not unusual to be invited out to a bar after business hours, and don’t be surprised if you wind up on the karaoke stage.

A morning visit to a jimjilbang can be particularly helpful for combating the effects of a night spent with business colleagues in one of the city’s lively bars. These 24-hour, gender-segregated bathhouses feature relaxing hot and cold soaking pools, bathing and massage areas, various saunas, entertainment lounges and communal sleeping rooms. But some offer much more. Besides enjoying the bathhouse facilities at Siloam Sauna, for example, you can get your hair cut, have your shoes resoled, store a suitcase, play table tennis or brush up on your karaoke skills before the next night on the town.

Downtown Seoul offers plenty of business hotels, but a few are particularly alluring, known for being business-friendly and for having excellent restaurants and lounges for business lunches, dinners or cocktails.

Lotte Hotel Seoul, a 5-star luxury business hotel located in Seoul’s Central Business District, features a business center with equipment ranging from a laser printer to a digital camera, offers services such as translation and secretarial assistance, and will even print up business cards. Impress important clients by treating them to either lunch or dinner at the hotel’s top-notch, French fine-dining restaurant with its 2-Michelin-starred chef, Pierre Gagnaire.

Four Seasons Hotel Seoul makes a welcome addition to the city’s high-end hotel scene. Besides the expected business center, the property’s Executive Club Lounge offers personalized services from last-minute garment pressing to setting up an urgent business meeting.

The Four Seasons also features seven restaurants and lounges for entertaining business associates for either lunch or dinner. One of the most fun venues, “Hidden on our Lower Level,” is Charles H., an intimate, dark bar named for the legendary American cocktail writer Charles H. Baker. A particularly cool place for an after-work toddy, the libations on the cocktail menu trace Baker’s epic travels in search of the perfect drink across eras and continents.

National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea © ELLEN CLARK

If time permits, visit Seoul’s main historical museum to learn about the city’s fascinating past from the Stone Age to present times. Lovers of Korea’s spicy national side dish might consider learning to make it themselves at Museum Kimchikan. And if the frenetic pace of the city gets to be too much, spend an hour or two in Changgyeonggung Palace’s restful and lovely botanical gardens.

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