New Sanctions, New Startups: How Choson Exchange Made A Difference in 2017

While rockets got bigger and sanctions became tougher in 2017, an enthusiastic group of local frontier entrepreneurs continued launching startups that make life better for people in the DPRK. Our latest Annual Report describes the challenges we faced and progress we made in one of the most difficult geopolitical environments in the world. Click the cover below to read about the inspiring frontier entrepreneurs we met, their ideas for the DPRK's challenging market, and the problems they solved to push forward despite it all. In addition to this Annual Report, we have outlined our recent findings in a major research report published earlier this month. 

After eight years of business workshops, we are seeing the emergence of a startup ecosystem that fuels innovation in the DPRK: Entrepreneurs are exploring new business ideas on the local intranet and offline, long-term workshop participants mentor less experienced colleagues, and provincial officials look for ways to let individuals take charge of commercial spin-offs. Using concepts like the Business Model Canvas to refine ideas, and Lean Startup methods to test product-market-fit, local entrepreneurs are actively using the tools taught by Choson Exchange. Over the years, we have seen ideas become prototypes, prototypes become products, and products become startups — mentored by volunteers from all over the world who join our trips. 

While running programs in the DPRK and overseas, we have developed a roadmap to grow the ecosystem of local entrepreneurs in 2018 and beyond. We plan to focus our support not only on skills training, but on shaping the culture, infrastructure and business communities in the country — a strategy that will drive our long-term impact and guide us in developing initiatives for the coming years. 

Despite significant challenges in funding and operations, we are grateful and proud of the more than 130 volunteers who have helped us reach more than 2,000 Korean participants over the past eight years. From the capital of Pyongyang to trading hubs like Pyongsong, from industrial zones like Rason to tourism hotspots like Wonsan, CE volunteers have personally met the ambitious women and men who contribute to positive change in Korea. Thanks to the reliability and consistency of our engagement, Choson Exchange has become a powerful local brand for entrepreneurship and progress in the DPRK. Though the lack of funding forces us to slow the pace of programs in 2018, we continue to introduce ambitious frontier entrepreneurs and policymakers to the knowledge they need in pursuing positive change. Read on!