Today we have two accounts of the AKS evening of Korean culture on 10 April (one of them unsolicited by me). Both of them are favourable and rightly appreciative of the efforts of Sylvia Park of the AKS in organising the event. So I feel justified in presenting another angle.
The evening was scheduled to start at 7pm, so I swanned in, Korean-style, at 7:10 and wondered where everyone was. I grabbed a glass of wine from the dapper Mr Corbishley at the bar, said hello to a couple of embassy and KCC officials and ambled in the direction of the multi-purpose space.
The proceedings had in fact started bang on time, and AKS members and their guests were packed into the seating area. There was standing room only at the entrance to the hall, and I managed to squeeze through the crowd enough to get a view of the KTO representative presenting the delights of Korea as a tourism destination. As the KTO were generously sponsoring the event and funding the buffet, it was only natural that we should get this informative marketing pitch.
It was also natural that the KTO would bring along some guests from the industry: at the fringes of the crowd I recognised some of the people from the Korea, Sparkling launch last year. But as the memory of that particular event came rushing back to me, I began to feel a strong sense of foreboding.
I was not wrong.
As we got further into the evening, a breakaway group started forming outside the hall, drinking and chatting. They were predominantly the KTO and Asiana representatives and their guests (and I think I spotted some Korean Air representatives there as well, though I may be mistaken). The chatter got louder after the Asiana representative had presented the airline’s exciting annual passenger growth statistics, and we had moved on to the performances.
“People don’t want to listen to this sort of stuff”, I overheard one of them say, rather too loudly, as the delicate sound of the kayageum tried to make itself heard. Yes they do, and they’d appreciate it if you’d damn well shut up.
As the Taekwondo kids started their peaceful meditation before their martial arts demonstration, the sounds of merry-making intruded from outside as the Korean travel industry and their colleagues showed their collective disdain for the cultural events going on inside.
Mr Yu In-chon, the new Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism, has been tasked by President Lee to reduce Korea’s so-called Tourism Deficit. Funding events such as this is a necessary part of the marketing effort. But, for preference, please just cough up the money, go to the pub next door, and leave the rest of us in peace.