Interview on Economic Training 2.0 in North Korea (Part 1)

I was interviewed by a Korean journal focused on inter-Korean issues. I provided my opinion on how economic policy should evolve in North Korea, and what organizations like Choson Exchange must focus on to facilitate that transition. The interview was translated into Korean. I have included parts of the English transcript below: What are your current activities and what are you focused on?

Currently, we focus on training next-generation North Korean policymakers (under 40) in economics, business and law. Based on internal discussions and feedback from programs, we decided that we need to 'upgrade' to a training 2.0 model. General exposure to economic, business or legal theories are not helpful. Instead, we pursue a "consulting" relationship, where we work with NK partners to understand the economic problems they need to solve, and work with foreign experts to provide concrete solutions that can be communicated to our partners during our programs.

Can you introduce the primary activities of your organization?

It is an exciting time for us in North Korea, as there are a lot of new economic institutions or departments being set up that we think is worth working with, although progress is slow because of a lack of funding. In general, we work with North Koreans to identify specific economic or business challenges, and develop an agenda defining what they need to learn based on the issues. Based on this agenda, we provide workshops (e.g. fiscal strategy and taxation) in North Korea where 1 workshop leader is assigned to at most 8 North Koreans to facilitate discussions. We have also brought North Koreans to consult policymakers in Singapore, as North Koreans are very interested in Singapore's economic development.

Our longer-term strategy is to move to the training 2.0 model which I mentioned above. We identified two key problems with capacity building programs which we think is feasible to tackle:

First, the gap between training and implementation of knowledge must be made smaller. Instead of general discussions of economics or business, we now require NK institutions to prepare a specific agenda where they identify policies they think is feasible to review within a five year time frame. We can then focus training programs on these areas if we think the change will be positive for NK's economic development.

Second, there is also a lack of cross-institution communication in North Korea. As a result, institutions lack a common understanding of problems and a common economic strategy. What we need is to provide opportunities for these institutions to develop that common vision. An idea we are keen to explore was raised by a young North Korean who attended our program in Singapore. He suggested that North Korea create an economic strategy think tank.

(To be continued...)