People selected to help with the hosting of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit wave during a ceremony to launch the assistant program for the event at the COEX Convention Center in southern Seoul, Thursday. A total of 748 people will work for the summit under the program. / Yonhap
By Park Si-soo
The most star-studded political high drama in the world is set to play out in Seoul on March 26-27.
The second Nuclear Security Summit, following one in 2010 in Washington, is a showcase of world leaders making desperate efforts to keep rogue terrorists away from atomic materials.
Nearly 50 dignitaries will participate including President Lee Myung-bak, U.S. President Barrack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon among others.
Yet behind the scenes are hundreds of supporting performers and staffers toiling for the successful hosting of the event.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has selected 748 people out of 3,500 contenders as personal assistants for the Seoul summit.
They will be tasked with providing services in the fields of transportation, registration of participants and media support, the ministry said.
“Voluntary participation and services are necessary for our nation to rank a harmonized and advanced society,” Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said in a speech at a ceremony to launch the assistant program at the COEX Convention Center in southern Seoul, Thursday.
The convention center is the main venue for the summit.
“I hope that your participation and service significantly helps make the Nuclear Security Summit a success,” the minister said.
The assistants will receive intensive training in their designated service, which include conference management, protocol, interpretation and media center management, officials said.
Hwang Tae-ha, 25, will serve as a media liaison officer (MLO). His application for the job was motivated by a heart-breaking experience he had 11 years ago.
“One of my close friends was killed in the 9/11 attacks. The nightmarish memory drove me to apply for the position,” said Hwang, a senior student majoring in electronic engineering at Soongsil University in Seoul. “I want to play a certain role, no matter how trifle it may be, in making the world free of terrorism.”
This is the second time for Hwang to engage in a campaign for a peaceful world, following his engagement in a non-combat role in helping rebuild war-ravaged Lebanon in South Korea’s peacekeeping operation there.
“I hope leaders in the summit discuss something beyond political methods to make a nuclear terrorism-free world,” he said. “In a practical point of view, I think they need to draw concrete action guideline for ordinary people in the event of nuclear terrorism. This will help increase public awareness of nuclear security and its significance.”
Kwon Ki-moon, another MLO, said the upcoming summit is the world’s largest diplomatic arena dealing with “life-and-death” matters.
The 23-year-old was living in Tokyo when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was hit by a powerful earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in March last year.
“It was horrendous,” said Kwon, a senior at Japan’s Waseda University. “But the tragic event has become a strong reminder of the importance of security at a nuclear plant.”
The inaugural meeting in 2010 focused on nuclear terrorism. But the Seoul meeting will deal with not only nuclear terrorism but also the safety of atomic energy.
Lee Ki-ppeum, an MLO, said the meeting will provide ideal opportunities to promote Korean culture and upgrade the national image. The 28-year-old is now studying art management at Seoul’s Hongik University after graduating from the London College of Fashion.
“The summit is the perfect chance to promote Korean culture and art worldwide,” Lee said. “Nuclear terrorism is a heavy issue that has trouble drawing public attention. But if we put a cultural spin on it, the summit can get more exposure and at the same time upgrade the reputation of the country.”
68 staffers and more
South Korea launched the summit’s preparatory secretariat early last year, which now has 68 officials, including 39 public servants from 13 government units.
Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik is chairperson of the secretariat. Many of the officials have traveled around the world to a pre-arrange agenda, the itinerary of visiting leaders and other detailed issues.
“The officials have endured extremely busy schedules and a heavy workload,” said Ambassador Cho Hee-yong, secretary general of the preparatory secretariat. “The summit is only some 50 days away. All officials are making last-minute efforts for flawless preparation.”
The foreign ministry has run an advisory group for the summit, dubbed “Eminent Persons Group.” Fifteen renowned diplomats and scientists in the group have offered in-depth advice on a wide range of issues related to the prevention of nuclear terrorism and the safe use of atomic energy.
The preparatory secretariat is working with its own advisory group. The group has 35 experts, advising on their designated fields of service, including agenda-setting, venue setup, media promotion, interpretation, entertainment, and food and beverages.
“Their knowledge and experience is an unparalleled asset when getting ready for the summit,” Cho said.
The secretariat is also running a group of e-reporters who are tasked to promote the summit with articles and photos released through social network services, including Twitter and Facebook.
Five PR ambassadors
During the Thursday ceremony, Foreign Minister Kim designated three-member boy band JYJ as PR ambassador tasked with promoting the Seoul summit.
They were the fifth entertainers to assume the role following Korean-American pop singer Lena Park, actor Jang Geun-seok and two child performers, Jin Ji-hee and Wang Suk-hyun.
“It’s my honor to assume this position to promote the summit,” said Kim Joon-soo, a JYJ member. “The two other members ㅡ Kim Jae-joong and Park You-chun ㅡ and I will try to promote the summit and the significance of nuclear security.”
Lena Park, who is better known here as Park Jung-hyun, sings a promotional track, dubbed “Peace Song,” in Korean and English. The song highlights the significance of orchestrated global efforts to make the world free of nuclear terrorism.
The song was released on the Internet on Dec. 30 and is free to download from major music downloading websites, such as www.olleh.com and www.melon.com.
Actor Jang Geun-seok, who jumped to stardom in Japan and China, has joined a variety of campaigns to promote the summit at home and abroad along with two child performers.