Monday, June 30, 2014

Nurimaru APEC House

On Dongbaek Island, a promontory of land between Korea’s most famous beach—Haeundae Beach—and the Pusan Yachting Center, the Nurimaru APEC House stands. From the windows overlooking Suyeongnam Bay one can see Korea’s longest marine bridge of 7.42km long—Gwangan Bridge—off to the right (west). The opposite shoreline has the scenic Igidae Coastal Walkway which ends at the Oryuk Islands (literally “5 or 6 islands” as the number of islands visible is based on the direction from which one sees them); these islands and shoreline offer a spectacular view from Haeundae Beach or this promontory of land where the new APEC House stands.  Then gazing out over the East Sea on approximately 60 days of the year one can see the distant Tsushima Island with the naked eye. (Seeing the island is thought to be a mirage when temperature and refraction of light are right.) Further to the east is the famous scenic area Dalmaji Hill, known for its moon viewing. Thus was the setting for the 13th APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting in 2005.

The Nurimaru APEC House was built for the sole purpose of holding the meeting. By building the house exclusive for the reception of state dignitaries, Korea endeavored to show its wealth and ability to host on a magnificent scale. The APEC House now functions as a museum to show how well Korea hosted the conference. Host countries for previous meetings were:
1993 – Seattle, USA
1994 – Bogor, Indonesia
1995 – Osaka, Japan
1996 – Manila, Philippines
1997 – Vancouver, Canada
1998 – Kuala Lumur, Malaysia
1999 – Auckland, New Zealand
2000 – Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam2001 – Shanghai, China
2002 – Los Cabos, Mexico
2003 – Bangkok, Thailand
2004 – Santiago, Chile
2005 – Busan, (South) Korea …. finally!

What is the APEC?

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was originally inaugurated in Canberra, Australia, as a ministerial meeting for 12 member economies including Korea. The purpose of the meeting was for realizing sustainable economic development and common prosperity, most particularly about trade and investments. Since 1993, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting has been held annually, and in 2005, it had grown to include 21 member economies.

The origins of APEC, however, can be traced back to events involving the end of the Cold War and the accelerated integration of the EU in the late 1980s which promoted regionalism. Common consent that government-level cooperation was required to enlarge cooperation among non-governmental organizations in the Asia-Pacific region, such as PECC and PBEC, led to the establishment of APEC in 1989.

Upon entering one is greeted with a rich symbol of ancient Korea—a lacquer ware and mother-of-pearl inlay of the 십장생 (the 10 natural symbols for longevity) but actually in this picture there are 12 symbols of longevity—the sun, cloud, mountain, rock, water, crane, deer, turtle, pine tree, herb of eternal youth, bamboo, and the mythical peach. There are actually 13 symbols (the missing item is the mushroom of immortality) but the translation for the collection of symbols is “10” as a few of them like the peach, the mushroom, herb of eternal youth and the bamboo most frequently get switched out. I believe the message by presenting the 십장생 was that Korea was invoking their ancient history, concepts of nature in a modern techno world, and conjuring concepts of long-lasting durability.

The 2nd 2005 APEC Leader's Meeting was held in this room. The interior was designed as a round table, with every member clearly seeing all other members and symbolizing equality for all. Members were to sit, however, in designated chairs in the round-table design while the media was relegated to viewing rooms above where whisperings, rustling of papers and cell phone distractions would cause no interference whatsoever to the members below. As far as beauty of design goes, the ceiling was a motif from the famed Seokguram Grotto, and the walls were decorated with natural silk thought to emphasize traditional Korean beauty.

for the commemorative photo which included all the participating members of the meeting, I was amused to see a small platform with name placards affixed to designate where each member of the conference was to stand for the picture. What amused me was the thoughtful political considerations employed in assigning the photo designations. Most interestingly, the Korean representative stood exactly in the front row and middle just as heads of organizations position themselves with all their "family members" gathered around. The US representative, Bush, also had center-stage although in the back row. Hmmm, it would be very interesting to give political considerations about why each person representing their respective countries got assigned their particular positions!

Looking out to sea, as I'm sure the representatives often did during the conference, my friend and I saw two traditional 해녀, sea diving women, with their orange float balls and nets of abalone and other sea catches. They were swimming just beyond the rocks below the APEC House. If the APEC representatives got the same sight, then not only were they graced with a rich view of natural scenery, but also a rare snippet of traditional society now going extinct.

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