December 2017
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The highlights and hindrances of teaching N.Koreans entrepreneurship

By nknews

How does one persuade donors to fund programs designed to improve North Korean business capabilities in the face of growing international condemnation of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs?

It’s a challenge that Singaporean national Geoffrey See has been battling ever since his NGO, Choson Exchange, kicked off projects inside North Korea in early 2010, when inter-Korean relations sank to their worst point in years.

“We started our projects at the lowest point possible, shortly after the sinking of the Cheonan,” said See, referring to the 2010 incident that cost the lives of 46 South Korean sailors and which the South blames on the North. “We came in at a difficult period and the situation has never really improved over the years.”

Six years later, North Korea is now facing its harshest-ever sanctions environment, having been punished by the UN Security Council for its fourth nuclear test and attempted satellite launches.

“We started our projects at the lowest point possible, shortly after the sinking of the Cheonan”

It’s therefore not hard to understand why donors might think twice about supporting Choson Exchange, which See describes as supporting North Korea’s nascent entrepreneurship ecosystem, training local businesses people and promoting business-friendly policies and legislation.

Especially when considering the fact that catalyzing North Korean business capacities could, due to the fungibility of money, indirectly contribute to the weapons programs the international community is trying to discourage.

Yet See’s NGO nevertheless saw a record 450 North Koreans participate last year in its in-country programs, and a further 100 North Koreans sent abroad for training in places such as Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In-country, specialist volunteers donate their time and money to fly to the DPRK to lead Choson Exchange workshops designed to educate participants in international business and entrepreneurship. Externally, the NGO sends North Koreans overseas to participate in projects in neighboring …read more