By Kang Shin-who
Now the curtain has closed on the G20 Seoul Summit, a historic event which boosted the nation’s pride and status. Months of preparations by civil servants and hundreds of volunteers to host the gathering of 20 heads of state paid off.
It’s obvious that many citizens feel proud of the successful hosting of the summit gathering.
“I am proud that Korea was the chair country of the G20 summit. We need to hold more international events for the development of the country,” said Yang Ho-seung, 50, owner of a sandwich bar, “Sand & Bagel” near City Hall.
Kim Hak-hyun, a 16-year-old student who was walking by a subway station nearby the Coex, also said, “World leaders came to Korea and it is a very meaningful event for our country.”
But not all citizens were happy about the event as some had to put up with inconveniences. Most mom and pop businesses around the main venue for the summit had to close their shops because of tight security.
At the same time, some office workers had to commute to work on public transportation, leaving their cars at home in order not to cause traffic congestion while delegations were on the move.
In a district in northern Seoul, residents were told by the ward office to refrain from throwing away smelly food waste during the summit, triggering complaints that the authorities were trying to control the daily lives of people.
Some citizens even complained about what they called excessive security measures.
“Of course the hosting of the summit will boost Korea’s status. However, I am uneasy about excessive check-ups by police,” said Ahn Kook-hee, 26, who works at the Coex Mall in southern Seoul.
Policemen were everywhere in the capital to make sure any abrupt rallies did not disrupt the summit. “We have to be more cautious about any possible protest, and the safety of the people,” said Mun Young-sub, a policeman from South Jeolla Province. He stood in a long line of police officers.
What about foreign tourists and expats here? Many of them seem to be perplexed about the whole country’s buzz over the event.
“It’s my fourth visit here. I found more Koreans speak English. But I have not heard that the G20 summit has produced tangible results. I think the meeting is pointless,” said Kamling Weatheraul from Australia, who was in Myeong-dong.
She said it was inconvenient with restrictions due to the event. Her husband Garry said the event only blocked them from visiting many places.
“I am quite surprised by a large number of police officers in southern Seoul. I think they are around to cope with protesters. But rallies are allowed in my country during international events,’’ said a 30-year-old American man, who has been in Seoul for four years, at Coex.
Matthew Quinn, an American student studying at Yonsei University who was taking pictures of security officials at Coex, said ”I am very excited about this event because I have never been in a city where a G20 Summit was held. I saw violent protests during large international gatherings in other countries on TV. But things have been quiet here. I think it will stay that way through the meeting.’’
There were some who were nonchalant about the event. ”Well, I am not really interested in the event. I am not optimistic that it will produce any concrete results,’’ said a 34-year-old food stylist, who was sitting on a bench near the summit venue.