G20 well-organized but more English guides needed
By Lee Hyo-won
Some 20,000 media people gathered from all over the world for the G20 Seoul Summit, providing a ripe opportunity for the city to show its capacity to host events of such magnitude while exposing its cultural assets.
May reporters from afar were impressed with the overall smooth organization and showed avid interest in the local culture, but experienced some difficulties due to language barriers and other factors.
``The summit was very well organized. Seoul is certainly a world capital and this is a great opportunity for Korea to showcase Seoul’s such look. When Korea joined the IMF it was the poorest member state but it is now one of the wealthiest countries. It has a lot to be proud of and summits of this nature are a great opportunity for Korea and Koreans to show what they’ve accomplished,’’ William Murray, chief of media relations at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told The Korea Times at the Coex, Thursday.
Alistair Thomson, a press officer for the IMF, who stepped out of a Korean seafood restaurant with Murray, agreed and added, ``Seoul is an exciting city ― there’s a lot going on and I would come back.’’
Experts here have been speculating that economic benefits from the international media exposure, such as a boost in tourism, would be considerable.
``It’s my fourth time covering the G20 summit, and things are much better organized than the summits in Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh. It’s my first time in Korea and the reception is very good and there’s no trouble with Internet access,’’ Pablo Pardo, a Washington, D.C. correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo.
``Korea reminds me of Spain ― it used to be poor but is now well off. But not many people speak English, so I had some trouble riding cabs. I haven’t had a chance to look around Seoul yet but I plan to do some touring before I leave on Monday.’’
``LG, Samsung and lots of Korean companies have manufacturing and assembling units in India. There’s a lot of economic exchange but tourism is enjoying a big boom here. I saw some of the palaces and tasted the local food... Korea has preserved the Korean culture even though it is westernized. People want to explore new places and when I go home I’ll tell my friends you should visit Korea,’’ said Lubna Asif, editor at Tasveer-E-Hind, a magazine based in New Delhi. ``But it was a bit difficult with English.’’
She was nevertheless impressed by the high-tech aspects of the security check-in. ``I like the arrangement, especially the technology. You don’t have to manually scan ID cards but you walk through security looking at a camera. I’ve travelled all over the world ― I covered G8 and G20 but I’ve never seen that before.’’
However, the newly introduced identification was prone to glitches and yielded some complaints ― the camera scan did not work for those who weren’t wearing glasses in their submitted photos, according to Daisuke Sato, a Seoul correspondent for Japan’s Kyodo News.
``But the interpretation in Japanese was perfect and everything was overall well organized,’’ said Sato. He also noted that the security was extremely tight. ``Maximum security is important but I was just wondering if those fences surrounding Coex were necessary ― it really hinders the flow of the traffic and I’m sure it was extremely costly.’’
Sato also noted that Japan, which is hosting the APEC summit in Yokohama on Saturday, has been making careful preparations to counter potential terrorist attacks but there are no such barricades or pressure put upon the local people. Here, all shops in Coex Mall and even some schools closed for the occasion.
Security issues prevented one reporter from Al Jazeera news network from entering the venue.
Yonhap News reported Fadi Salameh, a Syrian-born journalist, was not issued a press pass for the summit despite having received a confirmation email from the organizers. He said security official informed him that he was denied entry for a previous record of entering the summit venue of the South Korea-Japan-China summit with no press ID.
However, Salameh believed political issues were the real reason for being denied access, saying that his previous coverage of the Jeju summit may have irked the South Korean government.
Organizers said journalists can be denied entry to the G20 summit if there are security issues.
Nevertheless the tight security provided for a relatively demonstration-free atmosphere. ``In Pittsburgh and Toronto (G20 Summits) there were big demonstrations, but Seoul has succeeded in containing demonstrations. I was impressed,’’ said a member of the French television press. France will hold the next presidency of the G20 next November.