The event was planned in response to the growing number of cities and districts in Korea who have run up huge debts and appear to have little chance of ever paying them off.
Many local governments sent large delegations to the Bankruptcy Festival. "Our budgetary situation is extremely difficult, so it's obviously important that we gather as much information from this event as possible", said 51-year-old Mayor Kim of Daegu, explaining his decision to travel to Seoul along with most government staff from the region. "Even some our of youngest female secretaries attended, since it was important that every public employee from the top to the bottom understood the importance of developing a culture of austerity and fiscal prudence." he added. In Namwon, people reported government offices shut down for four days and recorded phone messages explained that all staff were away on a business trip.
Luxury hotels in Seoul have been fully booked for weeks with reports that some public employees attending the Bankruptcy Festival have even had to stay in only four-star establishments, with expenses payments making up the shortfall.
Despite the influx of public employees, Seoul City Council admitted that it would not run a profit on the event since most of the related expenditure would take place in the private sector - which suffers from an endemic and highly successful culture of tax-avoidance. Under proposals originally submitted by contractors, the event should have been profitable, but even though Council employees were careful to choose contractors who could be trusted due to family connections, budgets spiraled out of control as the Bankruptcy Festival drew near. "But we learned something important about financial crises ourselves, and since that was the purpose of the Festival this was extremely fortuitous, if unexpected", said a spokesman, before promising to hold the Festival again next year.
Attendees also say much has been learned from the event. 56-year-old Mayor Kim of Gwangju said that an exhibit explaining the merits of combining business trips caused his delegation to use part of the weekend to visit various locations in Seoul to look for a location to hold next year's Gwangju Festival, which might attract more visitors if held outside the city, privately acknowledged as being 'not very interesting' by its political leadership.
The mayor of Busan, who asked not to be named, told us that the taking the trip with a large number of his junior female staff had even given him some ideas on how to tackle the depopulation problem which is damaging the economy of his city. The mayor also wants to pass on what he learned at the Bankruptcy Festival, with a proposal to build a 112 billion won Bankruptcy Exhibition Center, with the later possibility of holding rival Bankruptcy Festivals in Korea's second-class city.
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