A house to hold Apec leaders... at $10m an hour

Costing nearly $10-million for each hour Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders will meet there, South Korea’s newest convention hall is said to be

capable of withstanding bombs, earthquakes and even a tsunami.

Named Nurimaru, meaning “top of the world”, the iconic dome aiming to be a haven of tranquility for visiting dignitaries rests on 12 pillars and is nestled on the tip of a rocky islet off the coast of Busan port.

Companies in South Korea designed and built the $19-million glass and steel structure in a year to house the 21 Apec leaders, although they only meet there for two hours on Friday.

Secrecy has surrounded the preparations for Nurimaru, with Busan city officials saying even they are not allowed to approach the house without special identification.

“Even people working for Apec cannot go there easily,” said one official.

Apec leaders, including United States President George Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will spend five hours in total at Nurimaru.

In a more informal retreat session, leaders will be able to kick back and gather their thoughts while gazing out at expansive sea views and contemplating traditional Korean motifs and designs.

They will also be able to do so in complete safety, organisers of the project say. The circular roof, modelled on a traditional Korean pavilion, is covered with titanium-coated steel, built to withstand the heaviest of storms.

A web of security cameras, metal detectors, beam sensors and bullet-proof screens will reinforce security in the three-storey, 3 000 square-metre building.

No-fly and no-vessel zones have also been declared within a seven-kilometre radius of the house, which will be surrounded by armed guards.

“It is prepared for any earthquake or bombs or even tsunamis,” said a Busan city official in charge of Nurimaru, who requested anonymity.

The building houses a conference hall, a dining room and reception area, as well as a media centre.

A six-metre painting on the third floor represents 12 elements that traditionally signify longevity in Korean culture, such as the sun, a mountain, a rock, water, a peach and bamboo.

Twenty-one sculptures representing each of the Apec economies stand in the Nurimaru’s gardens.
The figures include an eagle for the United States, a koala bear for Australia, and bamboo for China.

Once Apec is over, Nurimaru house, funded from Busan’s coffers, will be open to the public for two days after the summit, and serve as a memorial hall to the event until March.

It will then be available for conferences, but nobody has made bookings yet, Busan city officials have said. - Sapa-AFP

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