Last month, two weeks after the Ebola quarantine measures were lifted in North Korea, we entered Pyongyang to run a workshop on ‘partnering with foreign businesspeople.’ Participants were particularly appreciative of one particular talk – a professor who spoke about Singapore’s efforts to attract foreign investment.
The professor ended his talk with the story of “the Lion and the Gazelle”, apparently a favorite story of Singapore’s bureaucrats. This is how it goes (paraphrased):
In the morning, the gazelle wakes up thinking “if I run too slowly, I will be devoured by the lion.” The same morning, the lion wakes up thinking “if I run too slowly, I will not catch the gazelle and will starve to death.”
The moral of the story? Investment attraction is a competition, and every country needs to be continually improving its business environment to attract investors. We hope that the message gets through to the businesspeople, academics and policymakers in attendance, that there is A LOT more North Korea can do to make the country minimally hospitable to foreign businesspeople.