Seoul Trip – Part I

This past October 2012, I attended a wonderful EM conference in Seoul where I combined my love of traveling, KPop-addiction, and my professional life into one quick, but awesome trip. I was so excited and prepared for my solo trip to Seoul. Fully realizing the long trek’s toll would take on my neck, I was prepared! Hello Kitty neck pillow!

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My carry-on bag and pillow.

Unlike most people I know, I actually enjoy these long, 12-14 hour flights. I remember my first trip back to Taiwan when I was 18. I had just finished my freshman year at Cornell. I found the extended time on the plane fun because I was able to watch 3-4 movies at one sitting! Awesome! I loved it. And, throughout my life, I have made a dozen or so of these cross-ocean trips, and still to this day look forward to them. I know; that’s weird.

In addition, the silence and a sort of cocooned experience is somehow soothing or calming for me. Shhhhh…everyone is sleeping…

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After nearly 16 hours, I finally ARRIVED! It was so THRILLING!

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I was so happy! Now, hopefully, my trip planning will turn out well. I planned on taking a shuttle bus to the COEX. I wasn’t really sure how I was getting to the hotel from there. But, I had Google Earth’d it and it looked like it was walking distance from the COEX; I figured I could take a taxi or walk. When I asked the helpdesk attendant at Incheon Airport, she said the hotel was too close to the COEX for a taxi. Oh, good. That means it’s walkable.

Next, I asked someone where I can rent a cell phone. My friend who lives in Seoul suggested I rent a cell phone; quite convenient and affordable, he said. It was right there once I got out of the gate. It truly was so easy to rent a cell phone and it was so inexpensive. I got it and went out the front door with great anticipation and some excitement butterflies in my stomach.

This was the scene as I stepped out. Gyahhh!! So cool! I’ve watched many KPop celebrities walk this path into and out of Incheon Airport. And, now I am standing at the same place!!

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Then I looked around for the shuttle buses, and VOILA! Woohoo! How easy was that!

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The ride was smooth, comfy seats and took about 45minutes, give or take. When I got near the COEX, I was looking out, wondering how I was going to get to the hotel. And, the Lord was watching over me! OMG, I saw the lit up Neon hotel sign as the bus made a turn onto the street where the bus terminal was. Again,woohoo! Thank you, Lord! I knew it was going to be no problem walking to the hotel! (This photo was taken during the day.)

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The cute receptionist was a nice young man who spoke some English, but to my delight, he spoke Mandarin as well. Apparently he lived in Taiwan for several months just for fun and looks forward to go back. He said he didn’t go to school there nor have family. He just had a lot of fun living in Taiwan and wanted to go back. Little did I know, this was only the first encounter with young people in Seoul who had some connection to my Chinese background. More later 😉

DAY #2

The PEMC (Pan-Pacific Emergency Medicine Congress) was being held at COEX, one of Seoul’s most well-known convention centers, right in the heart of Gangnam. Yes, as in the uber explosive record shattering KPop hit Gangnam Style. It was cool going there in the middle of all that craziness, when the whole world was discovering KPop through this one campy, cringe-worthy nutty dance tune.

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COEX entrance sign.

It was a really nice convention center. Really clean. There was even a little art exhibit there. I took some photos of some of the works I liked.

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Doesn’t this look like a box of Gala apples? It’s actually a painting. It was beautiful.

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And, these ceramic apples were beautiful as well.

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COEX entrance

This glass structure stood at the other end of the COEX from where I usually entered.

The main conference started on Wednesday and ended mid-day Friday. There were more than 25 countries represented there. The majority of attendees, however, were understandably from Korea. But, I met ER docs from many different countries: Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines, Italy, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. It was so inspiring to meet and see that my chosen specialty was loved and pursued by so many others all across the globe.

It was particularly inspiring to meet female Emergency Physicians from these other countries! Definitely the highlight of the conference was meeting Dr. Judith Tintinelli whom I consider the matriarch of Emergency Medicine.

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Definitely the highlight of my trip was to meet and chat with Dr. Judith Tintinelli whom I consider the matriarch of EM. All my core EM knowledge I learned from her text. She was the sweetest, most humble person.

I spent some time with Dr. Seow who was the first female Emergency Physician in Singapore. She, too, was a lovely, humble woman.

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Dr. Seow

The evening of the first day of the conference, I somehow got myself invited to a medical equipment equipment dinner meant for invited academicians. It was a lovely time. Ladaerl’s representative was happy to include me when he heard I wanted to meet the head of the Taiwan Society of Emergency Medicine, and he happened to be one of the invited guests to their dinner. But, as it turned out, he went to another dinner instead. Yet, I had the pleasure of meeting all these “important” doctors at different institutions of various countries.

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Dinner with some important, accomplished folks in academia. the lone caucasion is Dr. Pampras, director of Simulation training at University of Pittsburgh Med Ctr, and assoc professor.

As for the conference, I was very pleased with the quality. This conference rivaled any well-run EM conference in the US. I have attended many in my 20 year EM career. The syllabus was varied and contained enough variety for the average attendee. Most of the lecturers presented in English. And, for those presented in Korean, there was an excellent translation system in place that worked really well. You were given a small handheld device with an earphone. There was live translation.

We had a lunch break on each of the first 2 days and there was a sponsored lecture luncheon with bento boxes.

They were REALLY GOOD lunches!! I loved the food in Seoul!

On Thursday, the second night of the conference, I attended a conference with most of the conference attendees which was so fun! I took the opportunity to take some pictures to remember folks by.

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Dr. Naoto Morimua, Chairman of Yokohama City University Emergency Medicine, and Secretariat of IFEM conference in Tokyo, 2013. He was funny and friendly.
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This is one of the first female EP’s of Malaysia, Dr. Jamaluddin. She is now the Dept Chair at her hospital.

The meal was delicious and the best part was the brief yet enjoyable musical entertainment. There were two bands. The first was a pop instrumental group called “Miji” consisting of 5 beautiful young women who played contemporary compositions on several traditional Korean music instruments. It was quite enjoyable.

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Miji (Korean Traditional Music Group)
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Miji (Korean Traditional Music Group)
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SCH Groupsound CPR
The Rock Band

The second was a rock band called CPR. How clever. They were actually really good.

Now, almost as entertaining was the cheering section for this band. It was quite culturally enlightening to see these – what we in the West would normally perceive as conservative Koreans – being so vocal and animatedly cheering the band on. These fans or supporters really went all out with banner poster boards and loud vocal chants and cheers. It was almost as fun watching them as the band.

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CPR Rock Band fans cheering

The event ended promptly and I took a slow stroll back to my hotel. It was about a 10 minute walk and I enjoyed these walks to and from the conference. I get to see and hear and even smell Seoul. That night, I walked slowly back in my heeled shoes. It was practically 10pm, but there was till quite a bit of activity. Business men and women getting off work or hanging out at restaurants, walking to or from somewhere on the sidewalks.

I couldn’t help but wonder about them, whether they were happy, whether they knew the Lord. Or, were their lives filled with stress and emptiness despite their busy-ness or outward success…

Day #3

Friday was a half day and the last day of the conference. There was a closing ceremony which I don’t remember much of. But, there were a lot of thanks and appreciation speeches. For me it simply meant my time in Seoul was coming to a close. But, not before the brief, but thoroughly enjoyable, second portion of my Seoul journey – sightseeing and a meet-up! So excited!

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