While missile launches, nuclear ambitions and human rights violations dominate headlines news on North Korea, there are entrepreneurs, startups, and business-minded individuals in the reclusive state. That's according to Choson Exchange, a non-profit based in Singapore, that supports North Korean entrepreneurs and business students through workshops, internships, mentorships and scholarships both inside and outside of North Korea.
Providing business education to young entrepreneurs in the world's most isolated state - I have on News In-depth tonight Geoffrey See, founder of Choson Exchange and a member of the Global Future Council on the Korean Peninsula at the World Economic Forum.
Geoffrey, great to have you on the show.
Geoffrey, you and your organization have been collaborating with foreign experts in training and working with thousands of young North Korean entrepreneurs over the years.
First off, tell us a little bit about these programs at Choson Exchange.
From your experiences in training and working with North Koreans, how would you rate their entrepreneurial and business skills and abilities? In what areas, if any, do they still have room to grow?
North Korea was one of the first countries in the world to close its borders after the outbreak of Covid-19. How is Choson Exchange running its program with the pandemic border shutdowns worldwide?
North Korean people are largely disconnected to the rest of the world and so the Choson Exchange offers a rare glimpse into what they're like. What was the impression that you got from the North Korean participants? Anyone that you recall in particular?
How is the profit structure of small businesses in North Korea different from that of other countries?
Kim Jong-un, during the early stages of his reign, sought economic reform by giving more freedom to factories and companies, but North Korea is now reasserting its state control in light of one of its worst economic crises. Is this affecting the Choson Exchange program in anyway?
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, during a Workers' Party Congress held in January admitted that his five-year economic plan has failed to meet its targets in "almost every sector". As his rare acknowledgement suggests, the state is going through one of its biggest economic crises amid prolonged pandemic on top of stifling global sanctions. In your observation, how serious is the economic situation in North Korea?
Geoffrey, I know that you believe entrepreneurship provides a viable path towards positive change and a healthy civil society in North Korea. What kinds of positive change have you witnessed so far? What are some areas you would like to see more improvement, in what direction, in the future?
Geoffrey See, founder and chairman of the Choson Exchange for us tonight. Thank you.