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Home Articles & Speeches Former official hopes forum eases investor jitters on N.K. - The Korea Herald
Former official hopes forum eases investor jitters on N.K. - The Korea Herald
The Korea Herald

For Robert G. Lees, executive adviser for the Asia and Pacific region at BearingPoint, a business and information technology consulting firm, this year's PBEC general meeting in Seoul is a homecoming in more ways than one.

Lees served as the secretary-general of PBEC for 10 years before moving to the private sector. His first meeting as the chief of the council was in, of all places, Seoul in 1992. when the Korean capital last hosted the PBEC general meeting.

It is a meeting he remembers fondly, but Lees thinks that this year's general meeting is, in many ways, even more important than the one in which he was involved 10 years ago.

To him, it sends a powerful signal that Asian economies are ready to pick up again after a particularly tough one and a half years. during which the region weathered an economic downturn, a health crisis due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome, uncertainties from the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and the threat of terrorist attacks.

In fact, the current meeting in Seoul was postponed from its originally schedule date in May due to SARS-related fears.

"Since Sept. 11, there has been hesitancy on the part of business leaders to travel and get together in groups like these," Lees said.

He also notes that the timing of brining the general meeting back to Seoul is even more fitting because of the ongoing North Korea nuclear standoff, which is a cause of investor concern.

"Business leaders from many countries can see with their own eyes, through the Korean press, the progress being made (in relations with North Korea) and the dialogue between the two countries," he added. "A meeting in Korea at this time is good for Korea and good for our members."

Despite no longer being involved in the management of PBEC, Lees said that he cannot help but come back for its annual meetings. Although BearingPoint is a major sponsor of the event and has significantly invested in the region, Lees explains that his reasons for coming are personal as well.

"This is like my family, and every time I come back it's like a family reunion where you get to see everybody," he said. "PBEC does that to you. It's a unique organization."