In historic Go match, sponsors win either way

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In historic Go match, sponsors win either way

After world-famous Go master Lee Se-dol was defeated by Google’s artificial intelligence system AlphaGo on Wednesday, many viewers began to question the philosophical implications of man losing to machine.

Several companies, however, just continued to celebrate the visibility they’re getting from the historic five-day series that will end on Tuesday.

One of the biggest beneficiaries is the five-month-old Four Seasons Hotel Seoul in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, which is hosting the event.

According to industry sources, the hotel competed fiercely with other leading hotels in the nation to win the opportunity.

“We’ve been discussing [such an event] since last year,” a spokesman from the hotel said.

Though detailed information about the bidding process will be released only after all matches are finished, the Four Seasons has already gained significant visibility from the event.

“Some media outlets have already reported hotel rooms are almost full, but it’s only based on their assumption,” Cassie Yoon, a director of public relations at the hotel, said. “Still, we can say that we are happy with the opportunity and that we are earning more from the game than we expected.”

Since all expenses related to the game are being covered by Google, the hotel could not disclose the exact number of rooms rented out and services provided. But according to the spokesman, “both Google and the hotel put most of our efforts into setting up the operational infrastructure since an important guest of the hotel this time is a computer.”

While the Four Seasons is a relative newcomer in Seoul, opening its doors only last October, it is expecting a big boost in sales thanks to momentum from the event.

Leading Korean brokerage firm Mirae Asset has a 60 percent stake in the luxury hotel.

LG Electronics is another player using the match to promote itself. According to the company on Wednesday, the company is Go player Lee’s official sponsor.

LG is prominently featured on Lee’s outfit, with the logo of the company’s newly released G5 smartphone on his right sleeve. Lee is also wearing LG’s smartwatch, which will be released next month.

With advertisements before and after the match’s broadcast, LG is doing all it can to maximize its exposure.

Still, industry insiders say the biggest winner of the match is Google, as it has earned a chance to show off its artificial intelligence technology. There are still four matches left, but industry insiders say the first match has already significantly boosted its global recognition.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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