RARE GLIMPSE: Entrepreneurship In North Korea. Choson Exchange Annual Report

Just a year ago, many feared the Korean Peninsula may descend into war — but with a fresh start between old enemies at the inter-Korean Summits and the US-DPRK Summit, that fear turned into optimism. Alas, it didn’t last, and we are again facing a familiar stalemate. Despite the cycle of mistrust, events on the Korean Peninsula in 2018 have led us to hope for a better future.

For our team in Singapore and Vietnam, which has been promoting economic experimentation in the DPRK using Southeast Asia as a platform, we were heartened to see Kim Jong Un’s endorsement of Singapore’s path. The North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun followed up with a full-spread story featuring Singapore’s cityscape, and DPRK economist Ri Ki Song explained what his country hopes to learn from the Asian economic powerhouse.

In addition to the excitement around the summits, we continued evolving our entrepreneurship programs in the DPRK. We redesigned the workshops to create three distinct formats: DPRK Economic Forum, Pyongyang Urban Innovation Week and Pyongsong Startup Festival. We launched the first Startup Festival in November, bringing in our largest-ever group of volunteers to mentor 100 participants, working on twelve startup ideas.

We also contributed to demystifying North Korea’s entrepreneurship and economy with more than 40 interviews, as well as feature stories in Wall Street Journal, Vice, People’s Daily, and Bloomberg. We presented a vision to Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon how ASEAN can assist inter-Korean economic integration, contributed to the Presidential Committee for New Southern Policy, and joined the State Dinner during President Moon Jae-In’s visit to Singapore.

In 2019, we hope to implement our new program formats in the DPRK, bring more Koreans to Singapore and Vietnam, and lay the groundwork for establishing a 6.12 Singapore Center in the DPRK — an incubator to aid learning, mentoring, and networking among emerging entrepreneurs in the country.