|Destination: Gyeongbok Palace, a historical site from the feudal era, is one of Seoul's major tourist attractions. — VNS Photo Hoang Trung Hieu
by Hoang Trung Hieu
"You are a reporter, so do you know anything about the upcoming 2014 Asian Games?" a friend who loves sports recently asked me.
As luck would have it, last week I got the chance to visit Incheon, the Games host city in the Republic of Korea, so I was able to partly satisfy my friend's curiosity.
Incheon, a beautiful and modern city, won the right to organise the Asian Games on April, 17, 2007 after defeating Delhi of India. Incheon is the third city in South Korea after Seoul and Busan, both of which have hosted the Asian Games in 1986 and 2002, respectively.
The 17th Asian Games Incheon 2014 (or ASIAD 17 for short) will see athletes compete in the premier sports competition for Asia's 4.5 billion people.
For 16 days from September 19 to October 4, 2014, athletes from 45 countries and territories in Asia will participate in the Games under the slogan of "Diversity Shines Here".
The green and dynamic city will also host the 11th Asian Para Games next year. Over the course of the two events, 50,000 Asians are expected to visit the city.
We were in Incheon to attend an international media forum entitled "Roles and Responsibility of the Media in the 21st Century" hosted by the Incheon International Relations Foundation (IIRF) - a nonprofit organisation established in 2005.
The forum aimed to increase and enhance mutual understanding and co-operation among journalists in Asia. It really provided us with opportunities to discuss topical media concerns.
To inaugurate the forum, IIRF President Jun Youngwoo said over the past few decades that Asia had played an increasingly critical role in the world economy and politics.
"On the other hand, we have also seen more conflict in Asia. When it comes to religions, territorial disputes, differing historical views and other issues, each nation puts its own opinion first and hardly spares time to listen to others," he added.
Jun said he hoped "everyone in this forum is well aware how important the media's role should be in this conflicting matter".
A Democratic Party member of the National Assembly of Korea, Youn Kwansuk, recalled the saying: "The pen is mightier than the sword."
"Keeping this in mind, the media should fulfill its role and responsibility to adapt to changes in people's consciousness and social atmosphere.
"Ceaseless efforts for self-renovation are also needed for the media to survive in the digital age. As platforms are being diversified, the media's roles and the importance of information is becoming more significant than ever," he said.
Forum participants discussed serious matters affecting the media industry.
Wang Wenwen, a journalist from China, said the media should try to provide a balanced picture of what is happening, by reporting from the perspective of both ordinary people and the authorities without taking a stance.
Wang said she believed "the media can be a valuable space for reconciliation and dialogue between competing voices. It is essential that the media forces the agenda, but doesn't dictate the outcomes".
Danilo A. Arao, a media researcher from the Philippines, discussed the state of freedom of the press, saying there is a difference between freedom of speech and freedom after speech. He focused on situations in the Philippines and South Korea as examples.
Arao said, along with the 5Ws (who, what, why, when, where) and 1H (how), journalists should answer two other questions to provoke a deeper discussion of the issues: So What? What Now?
Jeong Changgyo, from Kookmin Ilbo of South Korea, said building up a global media network is the key to a promising future. "Each Asian media outlet should pay more attention to assisting the community through media criticism to maintain sustainable growth of the global media network.
"As a result of this, Asian people with healthy values would take the initiative in tackling global issues," he said.
Boosting friendship relations
Incheon International Relations Foundation (IIRF) is a non profit organisation committed to promoting international affairs in support of the Incheon Metropolitan City Government.
Incheon is gaining global recognition as of power-house of the 21st century South Korean economy with a number of attractive features for international business, such as Incheon Free Economic Zone, Incheon International Airport and Incheon's harbors.
The city established the IIRF in October 2005 to manage and accelerate international co-operation and exchange with its sister cities worldwide. Since its establishment, the IIRF has played a key role in the city's efforts to become recognised as a top-tier global city. It carries out activities at non-governmental level with other cities across the world. The IIRF is also at the forefront of the city's efforts to nurture global citizens by developing and providing international co-operation and exchange programmes.
I thought the discussion was very interesting and useful, wishing we could have a few more days to explore the fascinating topics.
But time is precious. We had to end the discussion then to visit several famous landmarks in Incheon and Seoul.
One of our stops was Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), one of the four major national television and radio networks in South Korea.
"Munhwa" means "Culture" in Korean. The MBC has 19 regional stations in South Korea, nine permanent overseas bureaus and service arrangements with other media organisations including CNN, NBC, Reuters TV and APTN.
Incheon is a port city that has about 150 islands of different sizes - one of the most famous is Ganghwa Island. We didn't have time to explore them, but the city's green streets and large lawns made me believe this marine-tourism city has a clear focus on protecting the natural environment.
Incheon opened its port in the late 19th century and is developing into a leading green growth city along with the Incheon Economic Zone. The city also boasts cultural and tourism destinations showcasing the history of Korea from ancient to modern times.
Many local residents I met said they felt proud to have Songdo, Cheongna and Yeongjongdo - the first Free Economic Zones in South Korea, and advanced, futuristic cities in Incheon Metropolitan City.
I met a young woman named Lee Na Yoon who works at an information counter to help tourists in NC Cure Malling Street. Although she was busy, she was very patient and led me through the street several times to find difficult addresses. Her enthusiasm made me really impressed with the ways Koreans treat foreign guests.
We also saw many Incheon workers who were busy completing the final stages of construction for the 2014 Asian Games stadiums.
Of the 16 new stadiums, Songrim Gymnasium, Munhak Park Taehwan Aquatics Center and Yeorumul Squash Courts have already been completed.
The Incheon Asiad Main Stadium, due to be completed last, will be ready by June next year and will be able to hold 60,000 spectators.
The impressive Incheon International Airport, where I passed through for my flight home, also has a crucial role to play in Incheon's bid to become a world-leading city.
Recently, the Incheon Asian Games Organisation Board held a mobile art performance and popularisation programme in many Asian countries, including Viet Nam.
The Board chairman, Kim Youngsoo, said he believed that after the Games, friends from Asia and the world would know Incheon as a civilised, modern and hospitable tourism city.
"I believe Ha Noi will have fantastic methods for popularising the 18th Asian Games due to be held in your city," he said. "We are ready to share experiences and support Viet Nam so that the Asian Games will truly become Asia's greatest festival."
I returned to my beloved home city of Ha Noi, truly excited that the 18th Asian Games will be held here in 2019. My dear friends, see you then! — VNS