This is the second in a 3-part series detailing the Jeju Tourism Organization’s MICE Specialist Training Courses. — Ed.
▲ Photos by Steve Oberhauser
A recent Saturday excursion to Gyeong-ju provided some Jeju residents an insider’s glimpse into three of the historic Shilla dynasty area’s well attended tourist sites.
About 40 of the Global MICE Specialist Training Course participants went from Busan via a Korean tour bus to witness Gyeongju’s Imhaejeon Hall Site and Anapji Pond, the renowned UNESCO-listed Bulguksa (temple), and Shilla Millennium Park – the massive studio set for the famous drama “Queen Seondeok.”
All of this was a chance for attendees to help Jeju in its goal to attract revenue for MICE (short for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions).
The field trip was the perfect middle ground and apex of the entire course’s 20-hour, five-week schedule. Not surprisingly, this reporter was the only foreigner along for Saturday’s ride. The day before, most members had also toured Changwon Exhibition Convention Center and Busan’s BEXCO and Nurimaru APEC House.
Conducted entirely in English, the Jeju Tourism Organization’s program is sponsored by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
Imhaejeon Hall Site and Anapji Pond were the warm-up to the day’s traveling ternion.
According to the polished, on-site English leaflet, Shilla King Munmu created a pond and hill in 674 to plant rare flowers and trees and to raise uncommon birds and animals in the palace. Imhaejeon was an adjunct building to the separate palace during the Unified Shilla period (668-935) and served as a banquet hall for kings, dignitaries and noble subjects.
The building burned in 935, and the relics were found in 1975 when the pond was drained for repair. A few artifacts are proudly displayed in the nearby showcases.
MICE class attendees were impressed with the tour guide’s interpretation and overall pristine atmosphere of the grounds.
Next up was Bulguksa, meaning “Buddhist Country Temple.” There was a spirited debate as to what temple is the most famous in Korea. This may be it, as it is regarded as the pinnacle of Shilla temple architecture with its carpentry, interior paintings, and surroundings. Bulguksa is almost 1,500 years old.
Two pagodas also add to this location’s mystique. The first, Dabotap is rather plain and represents Shilla artistry. It also makes up the “heads” side of the commercial bronze 10 won coin. The other, Seokgatap, is more advanced and compares to those of the Baekje kingdom.
All in attendance witnessed a Buddhist, 49-day-after-death ceremony taking place at the main temple, reminding those that this area is not just about history, but also present circumstances and future beliefs.
However, there was an odd juxtaposition of a Rolls Royce and other immaculately superb, high-end cars parked closest to the ceremony, signaling societal status in a revered Buddhist sanctuary.
And, while there was not one foreigner at the first Gyeongju site, Bulguksa was different. Although rare in Korea, this temple area proved multicultural with colors and faces appearing from around the world. The English signs and placards here, once again in the historical areas of Gyeongju, were flawless.
The last part of the day-trip provided nothing culturally or historically noteworthy. But it was tacky fun for the Korean attendees and a lot of photos, complete with the mandatory peace sign, were taken by all.
The Shilla Millennium Park drama set for Queen Seondeok details the life story of the first queen in Korean history, Princess Deokman. In addition, the bill states it is a “new paradigm of Gyeongju Tour” and an “historic experience amusement park.”
The outdoor performance entitled “Secret of Heavenly Chest” portrayed Hwarang Misirang protecting the 1,000 year-long Shilla Kingdom and defeating another country with the three “heavenly treasures.” As the brochure ensured, it was “enthralling.”
So, too, was this day’s experience.
Next: In part 3, the MICE Academy concludes its objective classes. Learn how it stacked up with expectations.
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