Leading light of Korea’s event industry for the past three decades, Coex Convention Centre has played a pivotal part in helping elevate capital city Seoul to one of the world’s foremost meeting destinations. Its pathway to world prominence has notched global event pinnacles such as hosting the G20 Seoul summit in 2010 and the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in 2012.
Despite today being a relative grandee of the meeting facility world, it has firmly stood the test of time through an outstanding original design alloyed with careful management and maintenance. The four exhibition halls, auditorium and grand ballroom alongside more than fifty versatile meeting rooms and large breakout space make it suitable for meetings of every size. The venue feels as fresh today as it would have done when its doors first swung open back in the 1980s, and the high-end meeting facilities are just one factor in what makes Coex stand out in the global business event industry.
“I also want to highlight the value add-ons that you get from hosting an event with us,” says Steven Kim, Convention Sales Team Director. “I think of Coex as more than just the convention centre. We have the shopping mall, hotels, the aquarium, casino, movie theatre within our grounds and the temple across the street. I have been pointing out to event organisers that you are getting all of these value add-ons for your event participants too.”
In the heart of Seoul’s Gangnam district and occupying an area several city blocks in size, the combined value add-ons led to the establishment of the Coex MICE Cluster (CMC) in 2013. The CMC boasts a vast array of cultural, tourist, shopping and business extras all integral to the complex, such as three 5-star hotels on-site offering 1,453 rooms, transport connections to the rest of the city and directly to the airport, and no less than the world’s biggest underground shopping mall directly below the facility. The entire complex is, in effect, a knowledge hub micro-city embedded in a mega-city and the coming year’s pipeline expansion projects will not only cement Seoul’s standing as a meetings destination but will unquestionably further enhance it.
“Although we annually host between 2,000–2,500 events here, we often have to turn down international conferences because we have a limited amount of space and we are just too fully booked. Together with the government we have been pursuing expansion to the Olympic Stadium area close to here, not only updating the stadiums and building new attractions around it but also pursuing a new convention centre there.
“It has gone through a series of government approvals and is at the very final stage, after which things will pick up speed and hopefully with construction starting next year around 2026 will be the opening. We are looking at 100,000 square metres of indoor exhibition space plus 20,000 square metres of meeting facilities inclusive of a 2,500-seat auditorium. Our current one is 1,000-pax maximum, but bigger and bigger events want to have their events here. To cope with that demand, we need the big auditorium space.
“They are looking at making it an outstanding convention centre in terms of design, they are talking with architects about that. Underneath Coex the plan is to develop a huge underground transportation centre with all forms of transport where new high-speed trains would transit alongside the existing metro trains, which would make it the main hub connecting to all parts of Korea.
“We will try to reposition our new venue not only as a hub for Korean business but also East Asian business. That is one of our main goals. When we have a new venue, we can provide more options to our clients,” says Steven Kim.
Making more options available to clients is something Coex is already well versed in. It is not only a fully managed top-end venue but also offers bespoke Professional Congress Organiser (PCO) and Professional Exhibition Organiser (PEO) functions too, for which it has an established track record.
“We have a PCO business, and we do the exhibition business. That is the biggest advantage that we have as a venue partner for any show, congress or meeting organiser. We have very good experience in this field and can be a local partner for any event to be held here. That seems to be a great advantage different from other venues that only do the venue business.
“The PCO and PEO also does not operate exclusively within our convention centre. They organise events in other centres, hotels, venues and even countries. We know what it takes to plan an event and organise it, bring in the vendors and suppliers and also to execute it in a manner that is successful for everyone. I always like to highlight that, because I think our experience and expertise in that gives us a significant competitive edge.
“Our PCO and PEO team management always create teams that have experience working with international partners, negotiating with them, seeing what their needs are and meeting them. We have the personnel that are comfortable and capable of all of that, and we see more demand for it. We know beyond venue management and venue rental because we organise events, conferences and exhibitions, both domestically and internationally, I think that gives us a cutting edge level up.”
Alongside their PCO functions, a focus is on exceeding other cutting edge levels through a mixture of both continuous renovations as well as by keeping pace with global sustainability trends and local CSR initiatives.
“We continually renovate our spaces. Over recent years we have incrementally renovated all of them, so they are now newer. Within the exhibition hall spaces, we have also been opting for more sustainable options such as switching to LED options and re-using the water in the bathroom facilities to cut down on water management,” says Steven Kim.
“We have also installed Electric Vehicle (EV) parking spaces and charging stations, and have moved away from doing carpeting in the exhibition halls. We also installed 5G networks last year. Our pillars are currently undergoing construction to be digitalised for signage and other uses, as for 2,000–2,500 events a year the majority are using signage all the time.
“One of Seoul City Convention Bureau’s support strands is in helping fund the building of event apps so they can go paperless, and we also encourage event organisers to do that. A lot of event organisers are asking about these things as it is becoming bigger criteria for them, so we continue to make progressive steps.
“We are also contributing to the local economy. Last year we created a start-up innovation centre in the building to help start-ups grow their business. It covers all industry sectors, and any start-up that wants to have their event here will get a space for free, and our mother company helps them meet venture capitalists. We are also talking with some of the successful start-ups grown through that system to provide better conditions if they want to have any space within our building or facilities,” says Steven Kim.
From start-up incubation through to the head of state convention and every kind of meeting and initiative in between, Seoul’s very own meeting micro-city is fully geared up the for the industry demands of the 21st century.
“A convention centre does more than just hosting a big conference. It acts as a gateway between different fields, between the public and private sectors, fosters creativity, growth, and it introduces people to new audiences and new partners. People are seeing that more and more on the local level here as well.
“Ten years ago, we had a new vision of the company to become a major player in the MICE industry in Asia,” says Steven Kim. “The Coex name itself is a name that people recognise, not just within Korea but within Asia, and a brand that people know for its services and quality.”