Beijing’s Boao Forum to hold an event in Seoul

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Beijing’s Boao Forum to hold an event in Seoul

A regional meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia, a Beijing-backed annual thought leaders conference, will take place in Seoul in November, according to the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI).

This will be the first time the Asian equivalent of the World Economic Forum holds an event in Korea.

The event is scheduled for Nov. 19 to 20 at the Shilla Hotel in Jangchung-dong, central Seoul, with the theme “An Open and Innovative Asia.” Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was elected chairman of the Boao Forum Asia in April, is said to have played a role in choosing the venue.

“This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up and Korea and China are celebrating the 10th year of their strategic partnership,” said an FKI spokesman. “The Boao Forum and Ban joined forces to realize the Seoul event.”

China has the ambition of making the Boao Forum, particularly its yearly conference on Hainan Island, as high-profile as the World Economic Forum’s yearly meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Korean tycoons, such as Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun and SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, have been regular attendees at the Hainan meeting. Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong used to be a board member of the Boao Forum but resigned earlier this year.

In addition to Ban and Li Baodong, secretary general of the forum, 500 high-ranking government officials, business leaders and academics from Korea and China are expected to attend the meeting in Seoul.

They will discuss the global economy, regional cooperation as well as science and technological innovation at a time when concerns have risen over the spread of protectionism.

The Federation of Korean Industries will be jointly hosting the event, and many will watch to see if Korea’s most influential business lobbying group reclaims some of its past glory.

The FKI was disgraced for playing middleman to collect funds for former President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil, both of whom have been tried for corruption.

Upon its inauguration, the Moon Jae-in administration picked the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Korea International Trade Association to take care of business delegations that accompany the president on overseas trips.

The two organizations have been taking turns to choose which businesses will join each trip and to arrange meetings and banquets.

In the meantime, the FKI has been trying to restore some of its former luster. It held a Korea-U.S. business council in Washington last year.

In July, it launched a special committee on inter-Korean economic cooperation and its chairman, Huh Chang-soo, who also chairs GS Group, is traveling to Vietnam this week with some 20 Korean business leaders to explore the local corporate scene.

“In tandem with the administration’s ‘New Southern Policy’ initiative, we are seeking to cooperate further with the Vietnamese government,” said the spokesman. “The chaebol community is taking the lead in revitalizing the economy.”

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