Financial Times Feature on CE's Business Training

At a simulation exercise involving resource purchases, snowflake making and snowflake selling.

At a simulation exercise involving resource purchases, snowflake making and snowflake selling.

The Financial Times has a piece in its management section on Choson Exchange's training programs in North Korea. It sits behind a paywall. Here is a small excerpt and I strongly recommend you subscribe to FT for its fine journalism, and not just on North Korea:

... More than 180 trainees took part in the first quarter of this year alone.

The courses are designed to support North Korea’s growing numbers of small-business owners, as the state shows increasing flexibility towards breaches of its collectivist official dog­ma in its efforts to revitalise a long-stagnant economy. Most Choson Exchange trainees work at state companies or institutions. But others are running small enterprises, typically restaurants or cafés, and the programme hopes to encourage more Koreans to follow suit.

The sessions in North Korea involve a foreign volunteer – usually an entrepreneur, or a marketing expert – giving a talk on western business practices, with the aid of an interpreter.

“There’s a broad set of vocabulary that is missing” where business is concerned, notes Andray Abrahamian, executive director of Choson Exchange. “When the workshop leader delivers a sentence, the translator might speak for a couple of minutes to make sure the message got through.”


But the full importance of Choson Exchange’s work may become clear only after a North Korean transition to a truly market-based economy, when it would be in dire need of people who understand modern business, says Andrei Lan­kov, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University. “They are one of a few groups doing something that makes sense,” he says. “The only way to change North Korea is to expose North Koreans – especially the elite – to some knowledge of the outside world.”

Choson Exchange tackles this in an unusually direct way: by taking its most promising trainees to Singapore to ex­pose them to the cutting edge of Asian capitalism. Permission – and resources – to travel abroad are hard to come by in North Korea, even for Pyongyang residents. Most of the trainees have never left the country, and even the exceptions have nearly always been only to northeast China...