In my final week in Seoul, aside from saying goodbye to my friends and stocking up on all my essentials from Missha, Laneige and the like, I was given the fantastic opportunity to attend the government’s promotional power-blogger meeting for the launch of the ‘3.0 Initiative’.
When I received the invitation, my ego inflated ever so slightly. A meeting….a government meeting…for power bloggers…and I could go too? How awesome!
Then…I started to freak out.
Following normal logic, a meeting for Korean power bloggers…would suggest that the conference would be held in Korean? Correct. Was my Korean really up to something like this?
On the day of the conference, everything seemed to go to pieces. My Korean flatmate was talking to me and all of a sudden, my brain wasn’t working and I had no idea what she was going on about. As I was leaving (15 minutes early just to be safe!), I forgot that in Korean washroom bathrooms you have to make sure to turn the dial between shower and tap….and promptly got drenched by the shower. White shirt…no longer wearable. Not funny and so not what I needed. Make up reapplied, hair dried and an outfit change later, I was once more ready to go out…now 5 minutes late.
The conference was held at the National Korean Library which I had never been to. I found it easy enough – thank goodness for naver maps!- but naver hadn’t mentioned the huge hill between the underground station and the library itself. All of a sudden I found myself regretting my decision to wear high heels….
Thankfully, I arrived in good time, signed myself in and sat down in the hall.
I’ll admit…I felt a little (read= a lot) isolated. This was not only because I was the only foreigner there (although being blonde and rather tall didn’t really help the situation)but most people had come in groups of 2-4 from their resident organisation or website and were all sat in little groups chatting. My efforts to chat to the girls next to me were…politely rebuffed and I found myself feeling a little left out.
I took this time to look over the leaflets handed out by the staff…confronted with lots of words I couldn’t help but feeling like it was a lost cause…I will admit to being mid way through planning my escape when the conference began and the first speaker took to the stage.
A representative from a major blogging site in Korea (the name of which escapes me, sorry!) and lectured on the importance of things like search engine optimisation and promotional techniques. While the talk was interesting…I couldn’t help think that I already knew the broad majority of the techniques he mentioned…and the more specific ones were targeted to Naver Blog users which, since I use the wordpress platform, were both alien and not particularly useful to me.
The keynote speaker for the event was the Vice Minister for the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. I’ll be totally honest that I didn’t know who he was when he arrived but with everyone jumping out of their seats, I followed suit and a quick google brought me up to speed!
After everyone had calmed down, he proceeded to present the Korea government’s new 3.0 initiative. Leading on from previous similar initiatives, the new scheme seeks to focus on three distinct points.
The first key point was “소통하는 투명한 정부” : producing a transparent government that works towards mutual understanding.
Within this section, the government seeks to improve the availability of detailed information of the government’s activities and policies and to work more extensively with members of the public through increased opportunities for cooperation.
The second key point was “일 잘 하는 유능한 정부” : producing a successful and competent government.
The minister went on the press the importance of increasing openness and making ministries and ministers more accountable to the public for their actions and breaking down the bureaucracy that separates the government from the public. Furthermore, he suggested a strong drive towards improving government efficiency.
The final point of the ‘Korean Government 3.0’ presentation was “국민 중심의 서비스 정부” : producing a government which focuses on serving the people.
Most of this section was, in all honesty, what you would expect a minister to say (well, actually that constituted a lot of his speech). He focused on the importance of ensuring every person was able to receive the help and support that they needed from the government systems particularly specifying the help available to small and medium sized businesses in times of difficulty and to helping unemployed members of the society find work.
Of course, with Korea being the technologically advanced country that it is, ensuring that the Korean government remain a key player in scientific and technological advancement was also stressed.
I was slightly surprised when one of the minister’s assistants came up to me and said “Hello…..where are you from?….do you speak Korean?”
No….I just sat through a 2 and a half hour conference in Korean because I thought it would be funny.
Thankfully, I thought better of it and held my infamously British sarcastic tongue and simply said that I was British and in fact, yes I did speak Korean and that I had very much enjoyed the talk.
By the end of the conference, I’d got chatting with the group sat behind me who came from the blog for 경찰대학교 (Korea National Police University). They’d asked me if I really understood it…I replied honestly saying…about 70%? They laughed and told me not to worry – even they hadn’t fully understood everything. In hindsight, they were probably just being kind~!
After that, we were all called together to take a group picture. I tried, ever so hard, to hide in the back but being the only foreigner there…it was inevitable that I would become the token and given prize position next to the vice minister. When the photo taking was finished, he shook my hand and asked me if I’d enjoyed the presentation. We chatted a little before he was taken off to his next engagement. I couldn’t help but laugh hearing the boys behind me saying “I’m so jealous! She got to shake his hand!”
The conference concluded with a tour of the National Library including the digital library and a description of the library’s role in promoting the availability of public documents.
All in all, it made for a really interesting day and I felt lucky to have been given the opportunity to attend the conference. I look forwards to seeing the government develop as it pursues the policies laid out in the 3.0 initiative.