South Korea has won a reputation for excellence in the fields of digital arts and cinema.
Many award-winning cartoon series, such as the long-running comedy classic The Simpsons, have been largely produced in Korean animation workshops after the initial scripts and storylines were produced in the US.
Korea’s strong technological base and level of expertise therefore made it a natural choice to host discussions on digital technology and the arts.
And what better example of how the worlds of digital creativity and entertainment merge than by having the director of Hollywood blockbuster Avatar, James Cameron, appear as a keynote speaker.
This was the agenda of this year’s Seoul Digital Forum (SDF), which was held in May at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill with the theme “Renaissance Now: Shaping Another Breakthrough”.
The concept was that the current period of crisis demands the same kind of creative spirit that animated the European Renaissance, which marked the end of the medieval period and the beginning of the emergence of the modern world we know today.
This period was characterised by any number of great artists, philosophers, dramatists, writers and other thinkers who raised human aspirations to previously undreamt of heights.
A new Renaissance should also propel the world into a new era, through a similar unleashing of the creative energies though this time on a worldwide, not simply continental scale.
The forum was aimed squarely at the so-called TIME (Technology, Information, Media, and Entertainment) industries, with though- leaders and innovators from different sectors asked to contribute their ideas and opinions.
Organised annually by Korean broadcaster SBS, the first SDF was organised back in 2004.
SBS president Woo Wongil said in his welcoming speech: “The unrestrained desire for wealth has plunged the world into a global economic crisis, and the revolutionary development of information technology has put personal privacy at risk… At a time when we are starting the second decade of the 21st century, we need a new Renaissance digital revolution.”
Two of the central discussion topics for this year’s event were 3D technology and mobile platforms.
Cameron’s speech, entitled “3D Forever and 3D Impact”, was dramatically enhanced by being presented on a gargantuan LED screen. This measured 9.6m x 4.2m, and it was the first time an LED screen of this type had been used for 3D content.
The second international guest speaker was Ken Auletta, author of the international bestseller Googled: The End of the World As We Know It, who addressed the issue of the impact of mobile platforms.
Aside from the main conference sessions, there were a number of elements to the programme that were designed to allow participants to network and to see some aspects of Korean culture.
To welcome the guests, a reception was held at Aston House on the evening of the first day, attended by some 100 invited speakers and VIP attendees.
Aston House is set in an exclusive location on Mount Achasan at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill, with views overlooking the city and the Hangang River. This English-style mansion has lush gardens as well as luxurious indoor space.
Seoul Digital Forum’s Networking Dinner was held the following evening at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill itself, where guests had the opportunity to mingle and enjoy some specially laid on entertainment.
A special session conducted by Professor Hwang Byung-Ki, a renowned master of the gayageum, or Korean harp, entertained the delegates. Organisers described it as a marriage of “traditional sensibilities with modern motifs, underpinning the core aims of the Forum”.
Ricky Cho, chief executive of Minori Corporation, who attended the presentation by Disney, said: “Through the session, I found out how Disney, a company with a long history, reacts carefully to changes in the industry and I got many ideas.”
Joon Yub Kim, a journalist for Korea’s Kookmin Daily, who attended the session with James Cameron, said: “It was important to be able to hear the insights from a leading figure in the 3D movie field.”
Dujeong Choi, a project manager at the Telecommunications Technology Association, said: “I would like to applaud the high level of the SDF 2010 programme and the great progress of the event.
“I think that all aspects of the programme were excellent, including the composition, speakers, organisation, luncheon and networking dinner.
“I sincerely hope the SDF becomes the most prestigious international event of its kind, and I look forward to attending the event in 2011.”