Prevue May-June 2017 - 8
50,000 Rotary International Members Are Immersed in Korean Culture
Director, Meetings & Events
he Rotary International Convention
held last year in Seoul, South Korea,
almost broke the record for highest
attendance in the group's 100-year history.
Almost 50,000 people from 200 countries
attended the annual global event, which was
also the largest held in Seoul last year. Of
course, Rotary pulled out all the local stops:
Korean fried chicken and traditional dancers,
to name a few.
Rotary International has about 34,282
member clubs worldwide and 1.2 million
individual members. Its main purpose is to
bring together business and professional
leaders to provide humanitarian services
that advance goodwill in the world.
Connect with Korea - Touch the World,
not only encouraged camaraderie but also
included an exhibit floor with a number of
global charity organizations. The main event
was held at the city's Kintex exhibition
center and several affiliate events held by
individual Rotary chapters kept the group in
South Korea for at least another 10 days.
Several stakeholders helped make
the massive soiree possible. Experient, a
Maritz Global Events Company, was hired
on to execute the task of hotel sourcing
and housing management, with on-theground support from Kim's Travel that
also served as the official service provider
for transportation and additional tours. Of
course, planners from Rotary and an active
and convivial host operating committee also
helped incorporate a local flair.
"Korea is an area of significant
membership growth and donor activity for
Rotary," explains Shannon Watson, director
of meetings & events at Rotary International.
"It also has exceptional venues, exciting
culture and a strong tradition of hospitality."
A Rotary World
One case in point, the Korean Rotarians were
so welcoming that the opening ceremonies
ran twice. Local musicians, dancers and
youth gathered as part of Rotary's flag
ceremony, an annual tradition that displays all
the flags of the Rotary world.
The host operating committee made
it a priority to incorporate K-Pop acts and
other high-energy performances into the
welcome event. They also organized a
robust schedule of tours and activities
that included visits to local and remote
temples and shrines, exploring the Korean
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), performances
by the Seoul Symphony, and pre- and
post-tours to various parts of South Korea.
One of the other Rotary traditions included
was a "Host Hospitality" night, where local
Rotarians are matched with Rotarians from
other countries and host them for a meal
and evening activities.
Connect with Korea also creatively
incorporated Korean cuisine via food
trucks between the Kintex I and Kintex II
concourse. "They were incredibly popular
with the attendees, who tried a variety of
local delicacies and found some comfort
foods such as barbecue and fried chicken
that translated across [various cultures],"
"[Korea] has exceptional
venues, exciting culture
and a strong tradition of
The Rotary program also attracted
keynote presentations from the Eighth
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban
Ki-moon and Korean Prime Minister Hwang
Kyo-ahn. The closing ceremony included a
performance by Psy-the famous Korean
musician and YouTube sensation known for
the hit "Gangham Style."
Watson says local companies were
also crucial to the success of the event.
"There are some complexities in working in
the Korean culture. OK doesn't mean yes,
it means, 'I understand what you're asking
for.' It's easy to think that an agreement
has been reached when that conclusion is
Cultural immersion with Rotary International (photo credit: Rotary International)
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