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Bright and dark – what ASEM left in Seoul

Posted October. 21, 2000 21:45,   


¡°ASEM Burning Roast Beef,¡± ¡°ASEM Chocolate Coffee Shop,¡± ¡°ASEM Singing Paradise,¡± ¡°ASEM Sauna¡±¡¦

The Asia-Europe Meeting summit has closed, but ASEM remains in Seoul. Bars, restaurants and various entertainment spots using ASEM in their names line the streets in the vicinity of the ASEM Tower in Samsong-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul. Roads newly paved to greet foreign heads of state are another reminder of the meeting to Seoul citizens.

However, contrary to earlier expectations, there was no special sales boom and the stores around the conference site suffered a serious setback owing to the tight police guard.

Sixty-eight streets across Seoul City were re-paved with about 74 kilometers of bumpy road surface leveled out and unclear road markings repainted. Also the ASEM Convention Center itself was built to provide a venue for major international conferences.

It was the Inter-Continental Hotel, the headquarters hotel for ASEM, that enjoyed enormous and invaluable publicity. It naturally became the darling of the world mass media as it hosted various events from the October 18th reception to luncheons and dinner meetings.

Antonio Zamora, general manager of the Grand Inter-Continental Hotel, said with excitement that the ASEM summit was the best party and showed to the world his hotel¡¯s capability of staging the world¡¯s top events.

The most precious thing about the ASEM summit was the cooperation of local citizens. As much as 95 percent of drivers left their cars at home during the ASEM summit period under the ¡°odd-even¡± system under which one out of every two cars had to be parked at home. Also citizens cooperated well with the police in traffic control for the smooth progress of the summit.

Yet, department stores and other stores around the conference site had expected a special sales boom from foreign visitors, but they could only sigh at the unexpectedly poor sales. Rubbing salt in their wounds was the sharp decrease in the number of domestic shoppers as a result of the tight security and traffic controls.

The World Trade Center branch of Hyundai Department Store next to the conference site renovated its corners selling the world¡¯s top brands and opened special corners for commemorative souvenirs, traditional foodstuffs and local products. But an executive of the store said that few foreign delegates dropped into the store apparently owing to the tight conference schedules. He said that sales had dropped by about 15 percent.

Nearby restaurants and bars also were unhappy. Since more than 15,000 police were deployed in the area only convenience shops such as the World Trade Center shop of LG25, which saw sales rise 30 percent as it was a temporary rest place for the policemen, enjoyed good business.

Since the police were concentrated in the area around the ASEM conference site, thieves and robbers were triumphant in other housing districts of the city, and many citizens complained of the sudden road repairs that took place across Seoul.

Park Jeong-Hun sunshade@donga.com