2004 - HL
Early in October the Capital Hotel in Seoul resounded with cries of joy as YLs from around the world met up with their friends and checked in for the 7th International YL Meeting. 195 YLs and OMs from 14 different countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, India, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, USA, Korea - attended this Meet in “The Land of the Morning Calm”, South Korea. 4 YLs from Australia were there, June/VK4SJ, Maria/VK5BMT, May/VK5AM/HL1APR and myself, Gwen/VK3DYL.
Our welcome started at Incheon Airport with a banner held up by some of our hosts and that was followed by a big surprise as we drove down the multi-lane highway towards our hotel – as we came to the toll-bridge across the highway there was another bigger banner, in lights, again welcoming us. In fact, it seemed like everywhere we went there were banners, even outside our hotel and on the side of our sight-seeing buses, proclaiming to everyone that the YLs of the world were gathered in Seoul for a get-together.
The HL Committee, under the Chairmanship of Chae, Do Sook, HL2KDW, had arranged a programme to enable us to see as much as possible of the country’s scenery, culture and history plus some “get together” time at presentations and dinners. During the Meet itself and the 2 optional tours following it we saw temples, Buddhas, museums, a magnificent bonsai garden, a Korean Folk Village etc. The local Radio Club happened to be holding their monthly Flea Market on the Sunday and invited us to pop in so the members could meet us – the pre-loved goods for sale looked very familiar – hi!
We toured SK Telecom and the Ubiquitous Dream Hall where one could easily see the shape of digital life in the future – from digital homes to offices, schools, cars etc. – the world’s first virtual display of a futuristic lifestyle. I would have like to bring home one of their “Intelligent Robots”, might have given me more time to play radio.
Another tour was to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) – the border between North and South Korea. And no, we weren’t allowed to sneak across and call CQ de P5. The barbed wire and many guards on duty prevented that.
We were taken to two typical Korean performances – one set in an old-time Korean kitchen where the 4 performers banged with chopsticks on various kitchen utensils to produce some very loud music (?), while the other was held in a traditional Korean house where a group of Korean dancing girls performed a series of intricate traditional dances and drum playing.
Back at our Hotel we had a few presentation slide shows, one of which I gave on “YL DXpeditions Down Under”. The final night of the Meet saw each country put on some sort of an act with Maria, VK5BMT, gamely getting up and singing Waltzing Matilda on Australia’s behalf with everyone else present roaring out the choruses – not always in English! Joining in a conga line became very popular between acts and one was never quite sure whether one was coming or going. But it was fun and very noisy. But the noise and singing was nothing to that experienced on the night before the survivors left for home. Luckily the café we were in belonged to a friend of Chae, so we all sang, Karaoke style, till the roof just about lifted off.
In between all this we visited a couple of street markets with the result that some of us had to buy an extra suitcase to bring all the goodies home. Korea is a shopper’s paradise!
I was sorry I didn’t have time to operate the special radio station set up in the hotel – DT04YL – but we were just so busy! My other memories of South Korea are – the cleanliness of the streets; the horrific lanes of traffic on the motorways; the skill of the local drivers when they wanted to go from the right-hand lane across 4 or 5 other lanes to get into the far left lane (no way would I drive there!!); the friendliness of the people, even at the street market stalls when one refused their urgings to buy; the day we spent on Jeju Island; the busloads of school children on excursions to visit cultural sites, and last but not least the spicy food cooked at the table with not a bit of bread in sight!
Sarla, VU2SWS, offered to host the next, 8th, International YL Meet, so the farewell cry as people left for the airport was “See you in Bombay in 2 years’ time”. Here’s hoping.