You’re Invited……But Not Really!

by Anne Ladouceur, 14/07/2008

As a subscriber to a number of government related/funded newsletters, I periodically receive information about upcoming events/festivals that are intended for foreign residents and/or visitors. Apart from the disappointment when the information occasionally arrives on the eve of the event, or worse, on the last day, I very much appreciate the effort and do my best to pass on the information through my own newsletter or in this site’s What’s Going On section.  Quite often, the information I receive is a brief overview of the event and contains a website address where I can go for more details.

Here’s where my frustrations start to take off. More often than not, the website is in Korean only. Fair enough, if the activity is exclusively for Korean nationals, but if that’s the case why is the foreign community being told about it? Sometimes, however, the website does have an English section…..but no actual information!!!!

As we research information for Korea4Expats, we run into numerous examples of these ‘no information for you’ situations, partially because we try and check out websites and telephone numbers before we post them in What’s Going On. The latest one involves the Hi Seoul Summer Festival.

Thanks to the Seoul Selection newsletter, I discovered that Festival this summer is featuring some contests for which participants have to register in July. But on the Hi Seoul website, other than fancy graphics, there were no details, no information regarding deadlines for applications and no details on how to apply. I eventually did find an English application form for one of these contests, in the Korean section….and I really had to dig before I accidentally came upon it. (And from what I can see the Chinese and Japanese sections aren’t any better).

I also recently received an invitation passed on to the members of one of the Chambers of Commerce to attend a seminar. The topic looked interesting and so I filled out the RSVP form. A few days prior to the event, I called to confirm my attendance and asked if the presentations would be in English or if there would be simultaneous interpretation available. The person didn’t know but promised to call back to let me know, which she did…..on the eve of the seminar. She explained that the organizers, a local news company, had intended to make it an international event (in line with the topic) but that since all the speakers ended up being Korean-speakers, the event would be in Korean-only, with no translation. Again, fair enough if it’s a local event. But why, then, send out invitations to members of the foreign business community?

Speaking of sending out invitations…I was invited (and posted the information in What’s Going On) to attend the combined opening ceremony for the Ichon and Itaewon/Hannam Seoul Global Villages, both of which are located in Yongsan-gu and both of which are a part of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Global Center/Villages initiative to outreach to the various foreign communities in Seoul (Chinese, French, Japanese and English-Speaking). Wouldn’t you know, the only translator presented was Korean/Japanese….absolutely no English – this despite about 25% or more of the attendees were clearly neither Korean nor Japanese (excluding government officials, they would have been closer to 50% of the room). So why were we invited? Why did not one of the officials present have the courtesy to say even a couple of word in English in recognition of both the Ichon and the Itaewon/Hannam Centers? A simple “Welcome. Thank you for coming” would not have been so difficult.

I’m certain that neither the government nor the organizers of these various events intended to say, “You’re not really welcome.” Unfortunately, it’s the message they’re sending - not only to foreign residents, but to potential tourists.

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