Bringing North Korea to the World Economic Forum


Our colleague Geoffrey See was recently nominated to join the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader’s community.

One hundred and twenty seven of the world’s most promising social activists, business leaders, public servants, artists and technologists under the age of 40 have been invited to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders. They are pushing boundaries, achieving firsts, and breaking traditional rules to improve the world.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a diverse community of leaders from all walks of life and from every region of the world. Current members lead governments and Fortune 500 companies, hold Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards, and have become UN Goodwill Ambassadors and Social Entrepreneurs. The community aims to bring together individuals with different skill sets from exciting fields to shape an inclusive and sustainable future for the world.

For us, this is an opportunity to raise the global issue of North Korea at the World Economic Forum, and to encourage individuals from that community to contribute their ideas, voices and actions to the long, difficult and continuing challenge on the Korean Peninsula. We expect the period ahead to continue to be difficult so long as the US and DPRK are unable to reconcile their differences. And post-reconciliation, there will be the difficult task of integrating and developing this country to ensure stability. Read Geoffrey’s call here on the World Economic Forum’s blog for more direct people-to-people exchange between individuals outside and inside North Korea.

But after more than a decade in which we have taken close to 200 volunteers to North Korea to train more than 2,000 North Korean researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs and businesspeople, I have found a country that - as difficult as it is to work with - is full of individuals with aspirations, ambition, entrepreneurship and ideas. Strange as it might be to some, many of the Koreans we interact with - elite or otherwise - debate and disagree on policies; they want their countrymen, families and children to live better lives; and they hope to travel. It is not a monolithic country. People we teach in one department, company or province have different ideas about what reforms are needed to better the economy, or how their country should interact with the world.