In a country renowned for its time-honoured cultural traditions, world-class facilities and digital innovation, dynamic destinations abound across South Korea to take your meetings and events to the next level.
Smaller cities have steadily transformed through their MICE offerings and role in hosting major events, while others have developed boutique and accommodation scenes in historic districts.
And with South Korea’s high-speed train network rapidly expanding, access to these cities has never been easier, opening up rich new opportunities for MICE in a fresh crop of destinations.
Busan: An exciting port city with incredible MICE options
Standing in the Busan X the Sky observatory of the LCT Landmark Tower, 100 storeys above the blue ocean, the entire city of Busan unfolds below. Just a century ago, the view would have been of fishing boats and a small village. Now, container ships wait at sea for their turn to dock in what is one of the world’s 10 busiest ports.
More eye-catching is the arc of yellow sand spreading underneath the skyscraper for a full 1.5km. The most-visited beach in South Korea, Haeundae Beach is also the hospitality, food and nightlife hub of Busan, which is hoping to host Expo 2030. Already an established cultural beacon for its international film festival, Busan has come into its own as a MICE city.
One mountain over from Haeundae Beach, in the Seomyeon shopping area, is the Busan e-Sports Arena, a super-high-tech facility which has already hosted events like the Mid-Season Invitational this past May — an international tournament for pro-gamers specialising in League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena game. The arena, which boasts a main event space with 330 seats and two smaller ones with 128 seats each, is equipped with features like ultra-high-definition digital signage and a broadcasting system that can stream in 4K definition.
Five stations south on the metro is the spacious and versatile Busan Port International Exhibition & Convention Center (BPEX). Right next to Busan Station, on the fifth floor of a building that serves as a ferry terminal, BPEX has a sleek, futuristic design. Its six conference halls can be combined for a total capacity of 1,840 pax in theatre setting or 920 pax for banquets. Combining the four event halls yields an even higher capacity of 2,030 pax.
Meanwhile, back at Haeundae is the intimate MICE option Bay 101, which has been selected more than once as a “Korea Unique Venue”. Serving not only as a yacht club but also as a multi-use facility, the Bay 101 contains several event spaces, including Marine Hall, which can host a 130-table banquet, and the open-air Roof 101, which can accommodate up to 700 guests.
Gangneung: The Olympic spirit lives on
The city of Gangneung is 300km up the east coast from Busan but a world away from the nonstop buzz and blinking lights. Gangneung filled up with international visitors and became a hive of activity during the 2018 Winter Olympics, but its pine-fringed beach now boasts swanky hotels like the 150-room Seamarq, which is almost all windows. Further south on the beach is St. John’s, the hotel that hosted Ivanka Trump during her Olympic visit. With over 1,000 rooms, it’s one of the area’s largest.
Most visitors go straight to Gyeongpo Lake, which is separated from the sea by a thin strip of land. Clustered around the lake are Gangneung Olympic Park and Chodang Sundubu Village, a collection of restaurants serving Gangneung’s famous tofu made using seawater – the tofu gelato stall, in particular, draws long queues. Most dining spots here have a fairly small capacity, though nearby Skybay Hotel Gyeongpo has several grand ballrooms with a total capacity varying between 100 and 500 pax.
Just one stop west on the high-speed train is the Alpensia Convention Center, right next to a dramatic ski jump and which has room for over 2,500 pax.
Jeonju: Splendid culture for inspiring incentives
Nestled in South Korea’s fertile southwest, Jeonju remains a stronghold of tradition, thanks to its status as the hometown of Korea’s last royal dynasty. A short stroll south from Jeonju’s city hall, typical concrete and brick buildings give way to a sea of low peaked roofs covered in black clay tiles. The neighbourhood is South Korea’s largest collection of traditional hanok houses, many of which have been lovingly restored, and a shrine paying homage to the Joseon Dynasty’s founding king right in the centre.
On the other side of Jeonju Stream from the hanok village is an enclave of makgeolli (rice beer) taverns. Thick, milky white and slightly sweet, sour and fizzy, makgeolli is a traditional drink from the countryside that’s become embraced by the youth. One of the draws of Jeonju’s Makgeolli Alley is the free side dishes that come with each brass kettle of alcohol. These titbits can include pajeon (scallion pancakes) and steamed cockles.
Jeonju is renowned for its cuisine — especially bibimbap (rice, veggies, raw beef and other ingredients mixed together) and kongnamul gukbap (beansprout soup with rice), which is said to be great for hangovers.
One venue that retains Jeonju’s traditionalism is Royal Room of King. The hanok-style hotel has 64 rooms and an overall layout that’s meant to look like a dragon from above. Events can be held at the hotel’s Hunminjeongeum Hall.
Daegu: A convention city moving up the ranks
Recognised as one of the top 10 Asian cities for hosting conferences by the Union of International Associations (UIA), Daegu has become MICE-ready through hard work dating back to 2003, when the city’s convention & visitors bureau was established.
The crown jewel in Daegu’s MICE scene is EXCO, which has five stories of event spaces, not to mention a separate exhibition venue spanning 15,000m2. Perhaps most impressive of all are EXCO’s green creds, which include a geothermal system for heating and cooling the buildings. Among EXCO’s successful recent bids are the 2024 International Congresses of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and the 2026 World Congress for Neurorehabilitation.
For MICE and incentive travel groups, Daegu is an ideal entry point into South Korean culture. Only 60km east is the former royal capital of Gyeongju, which claims UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Seokguram Grotto. Lying the same distance west is Haeinsa Temple, recognised by UNESCO for its set of ancient wooden printing blocks.
Then there’s Daegu’s crafts scene, with establishments like the Museum of Natural Dye Arts keeping the folkways alive and providing hands-on experiences. A wide range of cultural offerings are available at Hanhakchon, and here groups can take part in a Korean tea ceremony, try painting a folding fan and various other activities.
For more ideas on where to meet in South Korea, click here.
This article is brought to you by Korea Tourism Organization.