Envoys Enjoy Happiest Hour

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Envoys Enjoy Happiest Hour

Dec 06, 2005

If you are a newcomer to the diplomatic community in Seoul, there is a perfect gathering to hit where you will get great tips on diplomatic life in South Korea from colleagues in a casual atmosphere.
The regularly-held social meeting dubbed the ``Diplomatic Happy Hour'' exists for diplomats eager to make friends in the diplomatic circle, the Korean government or other organizations.

The latest get-together took place at the New Seoul Hotel in central Seoul, last Thursday, with 85 people present, mostly from foreign embassies in Seoul.

``Our purpose of this Diplomatic Happy Hour is just for socializing,'' said Andy Jay, second secretary of the U.S. Embassy, who is a member of the steering committee of Diplomatic Happy Hour.

Jay stressed that this meeting is not a place to talk about politics or economics, but just get to know people and have fun together.

In fact, diplomats who have many official functions or business meetings to attend naturally develop their sociability. However, they said unanimously that this diplomatic event is a real party for them since it is probably the only diplomats' party just for having fun.

It is not surprising that Diplomatic Happy Hour is getting more and more popular among diplomats. It does not require exorbitant membership fees to join in either.

The party costs only 15,000 won ($15) per person, covering the expenses of light catering such as garlic bread, chili cheese fries, buffalo wings, fried shrimp and one free beer. The party usually begins at 6:30 p.m., but often finishes around midnight.

``The party used to be held every quarter, I mean each season in spring, summer, fall and winter,'' Jay said. ``But it became so popular that people keep asking when the next party would take place, so we try to have this every two months.''

The six-member steering committee for the gathering, first formed late last summer, include Sandra Verspoor, consul of the Norwegian Embassy; David Wallace, head of economic section of the U.K. Embassy; Ulrike Wolf, first secretary of the German Embassy; Rafael Garfias, deputy commercial counselor of the Mexican Embassy, and Phyllis Dreischor, assistant attache of the Dutch Embassy as well as Jay.

This happy hour for diplomats was created three years ago on the initiative of Rois Beal, vice consul of the U.S. Embassy, who found something missing in the large diplomatic community in Seoul.

``I felt that the diplomatic community in Seoul is very large but we didn't have much chance to get to know each other,'' Beal said. ``Even though we meet often through official functions or business meetings, we needed some informal meeting to talk freely.''

Back then, when she organized a diplomat's meeting, around 25 people joined, with the number of participants to the party steadily increasing once the steering committee of the party was formed.

Beal own experience is proof of the success of the party _ she married a Belgian diplomat Piet Heirbaut after meeting him at a Diplomatic Happy Hour.

The next Diplomatic Happy Hour is slated for February next year after diplomats get back from winter vacation, according to the steering committee.

Those interested in joining this party can contact one of the steering committee members. The committee said that people from the Korean government such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other non-government organizations are always welcome as well as diplomats.


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