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6,000 Rotarians walk for peace in downtown Seoul

6,000 Rotarians from 160 countries, many dressed in the traditional garb of their home countries, gathered in Seoul’s City Hall Plaza on the early morning of May 28 to kick off the 2016 Rotary International Seoul Convention’s first official event, the 3K Walk for Peace.

Beginning at Seoul Plaza, in front of Seoul City Hall, the 3km walk brought participants to Gwanghwamun Square before returning to Seoul Plaza in a cheerful procession. The 3km walk was organized as a way for Rotarians to introduce themselves to Korea’s capital while demonstrating their solidarity for global peace.

The event marked the official start of the 2016 Rotary International Convention, taking place from May 28 through June 1 in the cities of Goyang and Seoul. The convention is expected to draw 25,000 foreign participants from 160 nations and 50,000 total participants when accounting for local attendees.

The 6,000 spirited Rotarians for the 3km walk hailed from all levels of the 2016 Rotary International Convention including current Rotary International president, K.R. Ravindran, his wife, and Rotarians from abroad and locally. Public officials, such as Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon, as well as a number of ambassadors to the Republic of Korea, including the American, German, Egyptian, British, and Irish ambassadors, also took part in the walk. Mayor Park also took to the stage to address the group sharing, “Today, we will all walk together in a spirit of peace and with a wish for a world without war. With warm hearts and hopes for world peace, we can change the future.”

The mood of the event was festive even prior to the 3K walk as participants took pictures together and engaged in a variety of cultural and traditional activities set up by Seoul including booths for Korean calligraphy, traditional Korean games, Seoul photo zones, and rice cake-making. Just before the walk began, the Rotarians came together to join in an upbeat welcome dance as a warm up.

A special photo exhibit highlighting the 111 years of Rotary’s community service was set up at Gwanghwamun Square, the halfway, turnaround point of the 3km walk for the public to enjoy. On the return walk back to Seoul plaza, participants were joined by a traditional Korean folk percussion team instilling a burst of Korean spirit for the procession’s climax.

The Seoul metropolitan government showed its strong support for the 2016 Rotary International Seoul Convention early on, forming a support team to help oversee the convention’s many aspects. Prior to, and during the convention, Seoul actively promoted the convention such as within the city’s public transportation systems and the city’s tourism homepage. The city also organized emergency fire, and health care officials to be on hand for the convention’s various events in Seoul and arranged for popular annual festivals, such as the Seoul Drum Festival and Jeongdong Culture Night, to coincide with the convention’s dates.

As a special gesture, Seoul put together a coupon book featuring deals from some of the Seoul MICE Alliance’s top venues for the Rotary Convention participants. Following the 3K Walk for Peace, participants also had the opportunity to join guided city tours organized and offered by Seoul city for business event participants to some of the capital’s top attractions such as Gwangjang Market, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, and other sites.

Other services offered by Seoul for the convention included financial support, a Seoul Welcome Booth during the convention, 5,000 Welcome Kits, public transportation cards, welcome greeting messages for arriving participants at Incheon International Airport, and operational and personnel support from trained MICE Supporters.

The extensive support from the city provided a great first impression for first time Seoul visitors like Rotarian Lisa Salom from Houston, Texas who glowingly shared, “Seoul is such a beautiful city. The people are some of the nicest I’ve ever met and I’m blown away at how everything was well-organized by the city.”

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