Good will, with a side of fun

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Good will, with a side of fun


Participants in CEO Servers’ Night include Sung Kim, U.S. ambassador to Korea (front row, third from left) and Amy Jackson, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (front row, second from left). Provided by Amcham

Wearing a white apron and black bow-tie, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea smiled brightly as her employees approached her on Wednesday evening at the Park Ballroom in the Conrad Seoul in Yeouido, western Seoul.

Dressed in a waitress uniform, Amy Jackson and her husband, John Loftus, also in an apron, escorted guests to their tables and began serving sparkling wine.

“Please sit,” she said, “and enjoy this moment in your life.”

The ballroom was crowded not only with guests of Jackson and her husband, but with executives from foreign companies based in Seoul and heads of organizations.

There were 11 other servers for a day, including Bradley Buckwalter, president of ADT CAPS; Preston Draper, country manager of Costco Wholesale Korea; Sergio Rocha, president of GM Korea; Lee Hee-sung, president of Intel Korea; Lee Dong-soo, managing director at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Korea; and Chae Eun-mi, managing director at FedEx. Sung Kim, U.S. ambassador also took part.

About 170 servers and guests were there to participate in the ninth CEO Servers’ Night hosted by Partners for the Future Foundation, the charity arm of Amcham. The annual event began in 2003 to raise funds from multinational companies in Korea for scholarships for students from low-income households.

The foundation was established in 2000 and has raised more than 13 billion won ($11.3 million) and awarded about 2,000 scholarships.

CEO Servers’ Night was the brainchild of Jeffrey Jones, chairman and founder of Partners for the Future Foundation, who invited secretaries from Kim and Chang, where he works as an attorney, and personally served them.

“We started [the dinner event in 2003] to raise funds in a more fun way,” he said.

The server-CEOs pick up the dinner tab - including wine - for their guests who include their employees, friends and families, and make a donation to participate. All proceeds beyond the cost of hosting the event go to the scholarship fund. The contribution this year is expected to be about 30 million won, according to Amcham.

“Honestly, we do get stressed from work, and coming here and being served by our boss releases all the stress,” said Daniel Bae, a communications manager at Amcham, as Jackson placed a bowl of tortilla soup in front of him.

Though there were some mistakes from the rookie servers while pouring wine and champagne and delivering plates smoothly, no one complained. Each year, the chief executives receive about 30 minutes of training from professional servers.

“During the training session before today’s event, we learned that we should serve dishes first to the woman who looks oldest in the group,” Jones said. “I tried to find ‘the one’ before serving.”

GM Korea CEO Rocha seemed pleased with the affair. “I think the reaction from our employees is positive,” he said. “I always tell them that I’m an employee like any other and that I started like them.”

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