Update from Seoul - locals report 'business as usual'

I am writing from Seoul, at the close of a successful visit to our member firms in Japan and here in South Korea. Initially I assumed my timing could have been better, given the tension in the region this week, but being on the ground here at this time has been a fascinating experience. It has been hugely interesting discussing the current situation, and its wider longer term context with my South Korean colleagues during the day, and then returning to my room to watch the analysis and commentary on CNN and other news programmes in the evening. The overwhelming sense I have got from the locals here this week is 'business as usual'. There does not appear to be any increased concern or any adjustment to their normal routine; my colleagues simply say they 'are used to the threats and the tension.'

I did not have time on this trip to see the Demilitarised Zone, increasingly one of Korea’s most popular (and one of the world’s most unique) tourist destinations. It lies just 60km from Seoul and, even on a normal day, is the most heavily armed border in the world. I have heard it described by those who have visited it over the years as tense and a little eerie; it would have been an interesting trip to experience the border region this week.

Given my discussions and experience here in the last few days, and the commentary I have read, I do not see any detrimental effect on business occurring within South Korea due to the current situation. Perhaps tourism may be affected in some way, but there was certainly no discernible sense of people panicking, leaving, or even being overly concerned. With the strength of political support being shown to South Korea globally, and with even China encouraging the North to take a measured approach, I believe the outlook remains hopeful. In a year that will see the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, it would be a great shame if this tension does not ease soon, and if initiatives such as the Kaesong industrial zone do not continue to operate and flourish.



Jean M Stephens
Chief Executive Officer