2016 was a tough year of tension and international policy changes. However, Choson Exchange continued to implement trainings and capacity-building programs, bringing the spirit and knowledge of frontier entrepreneurship to the DPR Korea.
Let's have a look at Choson Exchange Annual Report 2016 to review our work, achievements and future vision, in order to support entrepreneurship in North Korea.
Our contribution & achievement
As extreme volatility continues to shape the geopolitical situation on the Korean peninsula, it’s a good time to step back and consider how we got there. With nuclear tests, rocket launches, military exercises, sanctions and tough rhetoric, the past year set the stage for the rapid escalation of events unfolding this year. Efforts to build a wall around DPR Korea, that is efforts to completely isolate the country, has injected uncertainty into efforts to integrate Korea into international society.
Throughout the year, we conducted six workshops in the country, as well as three overseas programs, directly reaching almost 400 Koreans. We also saw the graduation of scholars placed in MBA and MPA programs at Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore. Working with a team of Koreans we trained in Singapore, we helped launch an incubation program and ran a lean startup workshop at Unjong Park, a Special Economic Zone next to the commercial hub of Pyongsong. Prior to our arrival, these frontier entrepreneurs had spent ten days working with local mentors we had trained to polish their business ideas. They came up with ideas like a “Facebook for Moms,” a stress relief drink (that is not soju), e-commerce platforms, and more.
While the funding and operating environment has become exponentially more challenging, our work remains important. Through Choson Exchange, Koreans receive knowledge and exposure lacking in the country. Maintaining institutional relationships and building our knowledge of DPR Korea matters, too. When the country’s ties with the international community improves, contacts and mechanisms for cooperation will be important and valuable.
Over the course of last year, Harvard Business School took a close look at Choson Exchange’s work — research that cumulated in a case study which second-year MBA students will use to better understand DPR Korea’s development. The study also reflects our ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy for building the first generation of startups in DPR Korea. We will continue to implement training programs, explore ideas to provide exposure to startup culture, and work towards piloting new legal structures for frontier entrepreneurs in the country.
We support entrepreneurs at the frontiers of the global economy — those who lack access to the knowledge, exposure, and mentorship available in other ecosystems. Since the beginning of our work in DPR Korea, we have trained more than 1,600 women and men eager to become members of their country’s growing business community. They have gone on to share what they have learned with friends and colleagues. Some of them have started businesses, others have introduced new approaches and strategies at their current workplace. Some of them may get a startup off the ground within months, but many of them will spend years trying to put together the pieces necessary to launch a company in DPR Korea. Choson Exchange works to help them find opportunities in this extremely challenging and complex environment.
Our Volunteer Workshop Leaders
Without the intrepid workshop leaders who volunteer to lead sessions on business and entrepreneurship in DPR Korea, our programs could not be done. In 2016, we crossed a landmark with more than 100 volunteers joining to support our efforts over the course of six years. We continue to grow this global community, building a diverse network of experienced professionals with first-hand understanding of the DPRK’s economy.