“Out of Affection for Korea, Wish to Visit Seoul” - APSR 2022 Showed the Changed Status of K-MICE. 26th Congress of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR 2022) Held Successfully
· Korean Academy of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases (KATRD) hosted in Seoul in 13 years
· More than 2,000 scholars and medical staff participated despite the pandemic
· ‘To-do list’ memo prepared by overseas participants
· Visitors arriving three days before the Congress to enjoy free travel in Korea
· Event’s novel practices in addition to K-culture...highest participant satisfaction
An international academic conference where the world's best experts in the respiratory field put their heads together on the latest research topics in the midst of the 7th epidemic of COVID-19 virus was held successfully, leading to the discovery of numerous innovations and possibilities. It was evaluated that not only the latest research trends but also everything from the way the conference was held to participants' traffic design and expectations for K-culture were new and novel. The event was the 26th Congress of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR 2022) held at COEX for four days from November 17th to 20th.
Korea was able to host the Congress by the effort of the KATRD (President: Sang-Do Lee) for the first time since 2009. Given the atmosphere at the conference and evaluation of participants, the event was successful. Korea held the event in Seoul (COEX), like it did in 2009. It was also the first face-to-face international academic conference held in three years since the Hanoi Congress in Vietnam in 2019.
Participants from around the world as well as the APSR Secretariat had particularly high hopes for APSR 2022, as the Seoul Congress was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the location of the event was known to be the headquarters of K-Culture. More than 2,000 respiratory experts from 45 countries around the world gathered at the site, even without the ones from China and Japan, whose overseas travels were restricted due to the COVID-19 national quarantine guidelines.
△ APSR 2022 event venue (provided by APSR2022 Secretariat)
The event was noteworthy in terms of changes in MICE participants because a significant number of foreign participants were holding memos on “must-visit places in Seoul” and “must-try foods” that included tourist attractions, restaurants, and movie/drama filming locations. They were To-do lists written by themselves, their children or acquaintances back home. It was easy to find participants who enjoyed free travel for a few days before the congress without the help of a travel agency.
An official from the Secretariat said “many members from all over the world visited the event despite the pandemic. This shows that the level of respiratory science and medical technology in the Asia-Pacific region is world-class. The event showed that the status of K-medical, K-culture, and K-MICE has changed dramatically after the pandemic.”
<Pros and Cons>, <Meet the Professors>
Favorable reviews for the seminars as “the best ever”, breaking the existing frame
APSR 2022 completely broke the existing frame from the content to the format, drawing attention from the participants. During four days of the event, academic discussions were held in various respiratory fields, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, allergy, chronic cough, airway diseases and lung cancer. World-class respiratory experts managed a total of 80 sessions including 6 keynote lectures. These sessions were followed by diverse programs with lively atmosphere such as <Pros and Cons>, <Meet the Professors> and <On-demand Platform> which were first introduced at APSR 2022
△ Participants during a discussion (provided by APSR2022 Secretariat)
At APSR 2022, many participants looked at their cell phones during the lecture, and many audiences raised their hands to ask questions. This was because of the rules of <Pros and Cons>. In <Pros and Cons>, participants set one topic (a patient or a disease, for example) and debate “would you use drug A or drug B under such circumstances?” It was a time for masters to gather and share opinions through discussion on medical trends and issues with existing treatments.
At APSR 2022, several rounds of <Pros & Cons> were made in four fields including asthma, interstitial lung disease, lung cancer and COPD. Real-time voting was held on the topics through a mobile app. At first glance, it is similar to “Death Debate,” a popular Korean comedy skit. The secretariat says that offline communication between the speakers and the audiences including the voting happened on a mobile app, so it would have been impossible without stable supporting IT infrastructure such as Wi-Fi and a meeting platform.
Another novelty was that the moderators did not leave the stage while the speakers were presenting. There were even two moderators. Throughout the speakers' presentation, they took notes of the speakers’ points and looked around the speakers and the audiences. They looked busier than the speakers who were giving presentations, and this was because of the unique way of running the Meet the Professors session.
<Meet the Professor> changed the existing format of seminar where experts in a field are invited to give lectures and discussions are made. In <Meet the Professors>, lectures were short and discussions were long, so the focus of the seminar was on discussions. With an hour-long session, the lecture took 20 minutes while the discussion took 40 minutes. The two moderators divided the speaker's lecture into two or three sections, and then drew out expected questions by looking at the audience's facial expressions. After the lecture, the two moderators asked a series of questions for the rest of the time, and the audience also participated. In responding to such questions, the speakers begin their ‘real lecture’, reflecting their academic beliefs and experiences.
The secretariat said that “in medicine, communication with masters is as important as practice. That's why, through these programs, we got the masters to share their experience by talking with the audience." APSR Headquarters officials also commented that “lectures were conducted in a structured manner to avoid being boring, and we’ve heard some positive feedback about these programs from participants, saying they were pleased to have more lively programs than they had before the pandemic.”
Participants accompanied by their families – “We’re here to experience K-culture”
Being respiratory experts, more than 2,000 participants from 45 countries around the world strictly followed basic quarantine measures. All foreign participants were vaccinated against COVID-19, and no one took off their masks indoors. The participants of APSR 2022 were clearly different to foreign participants of other MICE events who often took off their masks at indoor events because of differing quarantine rules in each country.
Also, it was not hard to see participants holding memos when participating in the Congress. The memo was a recommendation list that contained travel itineraries in Korea and Seoul which showed how excited they were for the trip to Korea. In the memo, they reflected their desire to experience K-culture in the stronghold of K-pop. According to the Secretariat, since the evaluation process to select the venue four years ago, foreign evaluation teams have shown special interest in K-culture.
Foreign participants paired up for four days and enjoyed K-Culture around the COEX area or around downtown Seoul. The tour programs offered by the Secretariat such as the Bukchon Hanok Village tour, Taekwondo, K-Pop Dance, Han River cruise, and Korean food tour at Gwangjang Market were also popular, but the visitors were scattered along the spots (sightseeing destinations, restaurants, etc.) they had prepared. There were also many participants accompanied by their family members. Officials from the secretariat explained that the participants’ family members were eager to travel together to experience Korea and Seoul, their “must-visit” destinations.
COEX's geographical feature (Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu) also played an important role. As an airport terminal is located in the middle and bus and subway stations are connected to COEX, visitors were able to experience “Gangnam Style” in less than an hour. Seoul offers traditional culture such as Hanok and Korean food, as well as local culture and K-drama and movie filming locations, making it an attractive MICE destination city.
Sang-do Lee, President of the KATRD which hosted APSR 2022 said that “the Congress must have been a venue for all members of the Society to expand globally and advance through active networking. I hope all the experts from around the world will visit Korea and Seoul again after experiencing Korea’s MICE this time.”
“Free travel before the Congress with a full list of restaurants…showing the popularity of K-culture”
[Interview] Jae-Jeong Shim, Secretary General of APSR 2022 (Chairman of the KATRD)
△ Jae-Jeong Shim, Secretary General of APSR 2022
· First Seoul Congress in 13 years –more reasons to visit Seoul now
· Foreigners preferred K-content filming locations than traditional attractions
· “K-culture promoting tourism in Seoul, helped the academic field as well”
“Hosting the Congress in Seoul, in 13 years since 2009.”
Jae-Jeong Shim, Secretary General of APSR 2022 (Chairman of the Korean Academy of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases; shown in the photo) started the interview by expressing his surprise that so many experts from around the world came to the Congress even during the pandemic. APSR 2022, held at COEX for four days from November 17th to 20th, was filled with more than 2,000 scholars and medical professionals from 45 countries around the world. This is a figure about 400 to 500 lower than the average year as a large number of medical experts from China and Japan, whose overseas travels are restricted due to COVID-19 quarantine guidelines, could not attend.
Regarding such an enthusiastic response, Mr. Shim said, “as the pandemic period has extended over a long time, there were only few opportunities for respiratory experts to make academic exchange, so I believe the success this time reflects their academic thirst which has not been quenched during the pandemic. At the same time, I am realizing the explosive interest among people all around the world in K-culture. Scholars seem to have notably more reasons to visit Korea, especially Seoul, in addition to reasons to attend academic conferences.” On the 18th, the second day of the Congress, we met Secretary General Shim at COEX.
- It’s Seoul’s (Korea’s) first Congress in 13 years.
“I’m deeply moved. Bid was made for the venue in 2018, and we competed with China and Singapore. At the time, even though there were many doctors in the respiratory field in China, Korea received overwhelming support. Along with the academic recognition Korea received, it seems that we received favorable reviews because of our experience in hosting the 2009 Congress. The evaluation panel paid attention to Seoul as a host city. Seoul is close to the international airport and offers convenient transportation in the city. Its accommodations are great, with complete MICE infrastructure. Since APSR participants come from all over the world, high satisfaction could not be expected if any of these criteria are not met. The professors who visited Seoul for the Congress 13 years ago said that the city feels familiar and modernized. So, it was the best destination to host the event.”
-The overall theme of the Congress was ‘Above and Beyond’.
“In the respiratory field, people tend to think that the Asia-Pacific region is academically behind Europe or the United States, but in reality, this is not the case. The Asia Pacific region can provide high-quality medical care and has made considerable progress in academics. Therefore, we hoped that by taking this opportunity, the Asia-Pacific region will advance academically with many people benefitting from this event. The theme is also an expression of the eagerness of domestic academic societies, saying, ‘let’s take this opportunity to move forward and expand globally.’”
△ Exhibition booths at APSR2022 (provided by APSR2022 Secretariat)
- Wasn't it difficult to operate the event, from participant recruitment to transportation, as well as safety/security, lodging, etc.?
“With more than 2,000 people from 45 countries around the world, we have reached the expected number. This is a great figure considering that not a single person came from China and even Japan where strict quarantine measures are maintained due to the virus. Apparently, almost all the international members have come except from China and Japan. It is true that we had difficulties in inviting people because of the pandemic, but it seems that everyone wants to come to Korea for K-Culture and K-Beauty.”
- Please share the feedback from foreign participants on your tour programs such as Bukchon Hanok Village, Taekwondo, K-pop dance, Han River cruise and Korean food tour at Gwangjang Market.
“I felt the same during the bidding process, and that is, foreigners wanted to experience various things in Seoul. The Korean Wave has had a big influence. Taking Seoul tourism as an example, foreigners used to go to places that showcased Korea's traditional culture such as palaces and the DMZ, but now, they prefer the Han River or K-pop and K-content filming locations. Of course, palace tours and DMZ tours are too well-known that the organizers didn’t even have to organize such tours.”
- I am curious about the perceptions of the participants regarding the Korean Wave.
“A Dutch doctor who came to Korea with his son said he came here three days before the Congress. He said that they were just back from Gangneung and Sokcho tour via KTX train. As his 18-year-old son is majoring in electronics, he knew companies like Samsung and had a lot of interest in Korea. The doctor said that as his son could speak a little bit of Korean, they made their own itinerary including transportation, attractions and restaurants without any help from a travel agency. He even showed me such an itinerary on his laptop. He said that there are many overseas magazines about traveling to Korea. Two Portuguese doctors also came to Korea ahead of the schedule of the Congress and visited some tourist attractions by themselves. In fact, I often go to China or Japan to attend academic conferences. Although both countries are familiar to us, it is not easy to move around alone. However, all participants said, ‘Korea has a very good infrastructure to travel around (from a foreigner’s point of view).’”
- Do the Korean Wave and K-content have an impact on MICE?
“Today, four foreign participants showed me a memo, saying that they were going to the Hanok Village together. She wrote down all the places to eat Tteokbokki there. As Seoul tourism is well-promoted thanks to the popularity of K-culture, it seems that the academic field is also influenced by such trends. I served as the deputy secretary general at APSR 2009 held in Korea. At that time, the Korean Wave was in its infancy. Foreign participants said that Korean food was good for the body and knew kimchi as Korea’s representative dish, but it seems that their interest has gradually grown to like the overall Korean culture. For them, when it comes to Korea, things like K-culture, K-pop and K-beauty have become familiar. If there is an event in Korea, they want to come. They wouldn't have bought a plane ticket to Korea simply to eat kimchi. It is the same as having no interest in attending an academic conference held in the middle of a desert. Certainly, Korea, especially Seoul, has become a must-visit place among foreign participants.”