US-DPRK Summit II: A Media Primer on Vietnam - DPRK ties


Vietnam Office: CirCO, 384 Hoang Dieu, TP HCMC, Vietnam.

For the Summit Period, we will also be stationing a team on-site for Feb 26-28 at the Summit location.

It has been announced that the next US-DPRK Summit between President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Kim Jong UN will take place in Vietnam. This is great news to us. Since 2014, we organize training workshops on economic policy, entrepreneurship and women in business in Hanoi, Halong Bay and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam for DPR Koreans, and established an office in Vietnam in 2016.

Given our observations, we believe that Vietnam’s development experience is highly relevant to North Korea. We hope this short primer will give some insight to the visiting media covering this Summit.

Why Vietnam

The US approach to the DPRK is one of “maximum pressure” (i.e. sanction) with its flipside being inducement: denuclearize, rejoin the international community and you can develop your economy. Vietnam is symbolic as a country that fought a war with the US, patched ties with the Americans, opened up to the world, and made its mark as one of Southeast Asia’s  fastest-growing economies. The US would like the DPRK to look to Vietnam as an example of what could be. Current US Ambassador to Vietnam Kritenbrink was also formerly in charge of North Korea Policy at the National Security Council.

For the DPRK, Vietnam provides the security and proximity needed to organize logistics for a senior DPRK delegation. Ideological ties remain between Vietnam and the DPRK, with older Vietnamese having learned that the DPRK was one of their “brothers”. As such, the DPRK considers Vietnam a neutral or friendly ground for a meet, again emphasizing ASEAN’s role as an important mediator. In December last year, DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho visited Hanoi and Halong Bay. For Kim Jong Un, Wonsan has been a signature economic development project and Halong Bay has often been referenced in the DPRK as a model for Wonsan. Since 2014, several DPRK delegations have visited Halong Bay seeking insights into growth and development. Choson Exchange is proud to have brought one such delegation to Halong Bay in 2014.

South Korea has sought to encourage the DPRK to understand Vietnam’s Doi Moi policy of economic experimentation, with the hope that the DPRK follows in Vietnam’s  footsteps.

DPRK and Vietnam Ties 

Political ties remain warm, with Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan being the most senior point of contact with the DPRK. Chairwoman Ngan visited the DPRK for the 70th Anniversary of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) in 2016 as a guest-of-honor, sharing the dais with Chairman Kim Jong Un. However, economic ties have not been particularly vibrant, possibly because of overlapping exports and poor trade complementarity until recent times (e.g. coal) and Vietnam’s close economic ties with South Korea, which discouraged economic relationships between Vietnam and the DPRK under the last South Korean administration. Ties were further strained by the involvement of a Vietnamese national in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam in 2018. 

Some in Vietnam fear that a DPRK opening could lead to a reduction in South Korean manufacturing jobs in the country, These fears aside,The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) in Binh Duong is also regarded as a model of interest to Gaesong in developing the Gaesong Industrial Complex.

Useful Information

There used to be DPRK-run restaurants in Hanoi (Binh Nuong Quan) and Ho Chi Minh City. The restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City shut down in 2017 as the flow of South Korean visitors dried up under South Korea’s pressure campaign.

There is a memorial in Hanoi commemorating the aid rendered by North Koreans to the North Vietnamese government during its war against the South.

Choson Exchange in Vietnam

We organized our first program in Vietnam in 2014, bringing a delegation of policymakers, academics and researchers to Hanoi and Halong Bay to understand property development and real estate laws. Six months after the trip, the DPRK passed a real estate and property law for its Special Economic Zones, allowing the long-term lease of land within a price band.

Since our first program in 2009, we have had Vietnamese experts and volunteers join us in the DPRK to share their experience 10 times, reaching 500 participants in all provinces in North Korea, but most notably in Wonsan.

In 2016, we established our office in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City for the following reasons: (a) lessons the DPRK can learn from Vietnam’s Doi Moi economic policy, (b) the entrepreneurial energy in Vietnam and more specifically (c) the success of female entrepreneurs in Vietnam. 

In 2017, we brought another delegation from the DPRK to study Vietnam’s accounting and audit system for private enterprises. In 2018, insights gained culminated in tangible change when the DPRK passed new accounting regulations.

We remain committed to programs in the two host countries for our offices: Vietnam and Singapore. Since 2009, we have trained about 2500 DPR Koreans in economic policy, business and entrepreneurship. Last year, we brought 30 volunteers to train 296 DPR Koreans in three programs in the country, and one overseas program.


Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official webpage and press accreditation for the DPRK - USA Hanoi Summit can be accessed here.

Additionally, please check out other media materials on our webpage:

Annual Reports and Research Reports - Our 2018 Annual Report will be out February 16. We will also publish a study done last year on Real Estate and Infrastructure in Pyongyang by February 24, conducted by our colleague Calvin, who has led work training DPR Koreans on Wonsan’s development and bringing them to Halong Bay.

Choson Exchange - Halong Bay - North Korea.JPG

2014 Choson Exchange visit to Halong Bay to help DPR Koreans developing Wonsan to understand Vietnam’s development experience