[FOUNTAIN]Making Seoul fit for fitness

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[FOUNTAIN]Making Seoul fit for fitness

Striding into a Seoul hotel's health club a little after 7 a.m. last Tuesday was George Bush, the former U.S. president and father of the incumbent U.S. leader. Still showing fine posture despite his 77 years, Mr. Bush, dressed in T-shirt and shorts, shook hands with employees with a big smile on his face, as two bodyguards stood vigil nearby him.

He picked out a stationary bike among the exercise equipment. Then Mr. Bush propped a book in front of him and began pedaling fast.

There were about 10 Korean businessmen sweating on running machines, but they did not seem to know who the tall Westerner in their midst was.

After 20 minutes, Mr. Bush dismounted from the bike, closed his book and wiped the saddle with a towel hanging from the handlebars. He then mopped a few drops of sweat on the floor before some hotel employees ran to complete the job.

Mr. Bush once fell like a wooden column at a dinner party during a tiring visit to Japan as president in 1992. A year before that incident, Mr. Bush collapsed while jogging at Camp David. He suffered no lasting ill effects from either occurrence, although doctors recommended after the Camp David episode that he refrain from excessive exercise.

Ten years later, Mr. Bush, who came to Seoul to attend an international conference, appears to be very healthy.

Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore, was staying at the same hotel and also was said to have spent some of his time on his fitness routine. Unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Lee requested that he be allowed to ride a bicycle in his hotel room.

Of course, not all of Seoul's foreign guests have such convenient access to indoor fitness facilities. And many, in any case, prefer outdoor exercise, such as jogging, but find no handy sites to pursue their particular fitness regimen.

As the World Cup games near, hundreds of prominent people are already entering Korea for numerous international seminars and conferences. Increasing numbers of foreigners can be found taking a walk near the Blue House.

The Gangnam district government in southern Seoul belatedly built a jogging course for foreign visitors, but Seoul has far fewer parks and jogging courses compared with other major international cities.

Heads of foreign nations or chief executives of multinational firms have hectic schedules. It is time to build an environment where foreign visitors can enjoy sports and leisure according to their preferences to drive away their stress during their stay.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Choi Chul-joo

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