Seoul for Business Travelers
Seoul’s rapid-fire economic growth has been accompanied by a boom in the number of foreign executives visiting the city for events or to scout out business opportunities. Tight schedules often prevent business travelers from seeing and experiencing all they would like, but a number of attractions and experiences lie within easy reach of Seoul’s financial districts, and the city’s trademark efficiency makes it possible to take in a lot even on a short trip.
Anyone looking to make contacts or clinch a deal in Seoul would do well to remember the cardinal rules of local commerce—dress conservatively, arrive to meetings on time, and carry an inexhaustible supply of business cards.
Start a day of talking shop over an exquisite and healthy Korean lunch at Congdu in the Seoul Museum of History, an elegant, understated venue that’s the ideal place for a gathering and a hit with locals and visitors alike. It has the added benefit of being a stone’s throw from the Gwanghwamun/City Hall business district and magnificent Gyeongbokgung; the palace should be your next stop if you’ve got an hour or two to spare before the next meeting.
Those with more free time should also take in nearby Gwanghwamun Square and the Cheonggyecheon restored waterway, or perhaps stroll up the road to Samcheong-dong and Insa-dong for coffee or a light bout of souvenir shopping.
When night falls, the JS Texas bar on Cheonggyecheon is where many office workers unwind over cold beer and snacks, or take a colleague to the sky-high Top Cloud restaurant and bar in Jongno Tower if you’re looking to impress.
For anyone doing business in Seoul, all roads will eventually lead to Gangnam, the financial district south of the Han River that’s home to a good number of the country’s leading corporate powerhouses. If you’re hankering for a Western-style breakfast or brunch, start the day off at Butterfinger Pancakes near Gangnam station.
Those in search of tradition (or perhaps some peace and quiet) can stroll among the tombs of ancient rulers in Samneung Park or visit Bongeunsa, one of the city’s largest and most active Buddhist temples. The COEX mall outside Samseong station is also worth a visit; in addition to a wealth of shops it houses excellent restaurants, museums, and a convention center that regularly hosts major business and trade events.
In the evening, consider inviting friends or colleagues to Seocho Sariwon for some top-notch Korean barbecue.
Seoul authorities are aggressively promoting the island of Yeouido, the headquarters for many of Korea’s broadcasters and securities firms, as the city’s future business hub, and many professionals visiting the city spend time in the area. Assuming you’ve got some time to mix play with work, make sure to take in the beautiful riverside Yeouido Park, and perhaps even board one of the regular river cruises that depart from the park’s dock.
If you’d prefer to stay within close reach of Yeouido’s office towers, consider visiting the National Assembly or the copper-hued 63 City. Food-wise, any Korean contacts would be most impressed if you suggest a meal at the nearby Noryangjin Seafood Market, which makes up for what it lacks in sophistication and decor with freshness and low prices.
After nightfall Yeouido quiets down considerably, so if you’ve still got some energy left head across the river to the Hongik University district, which is bursting with good local and international restaurants and venues to enjoy a nightcap.
With work (hopefully) taken care of, the day should be devoted to cramming in the best of the rest of Seoul, as well as some well-deserved relaxation. The latter can be taken care of at the sprawling Dragon Hill Spa in the Yongsan area. When you’re suitably de-stressed, divert to the nearby Yongsan Electronics Market if you want to check out the latest in executive gadgets, or make your way to the National Museum of Korea.
Those with an interest in military history will also want to stop by the War Memorial of Korea, while the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art will be a better choice for contemporary art enthusiasts.
Your last night in Seoul should be spent in Itaewon, where stylish new dining and lounge outlets like The Spice, Sortino’s, Bliss, and Between await if you need to cram in a final bout of networking (or just a final few cocktails).
© Jonathan Hopfner from Moon Seoul, 1st Edition