You can make a difference in North Korea. Here’s how

North Korea

Random Institute (Random Institute, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Geoffrey See, Founder, Choson Exchange


Just over a decade ago, I visited North Korea for the first time as a tourist. This was in 2007, one year after North Korea’s first nuclear test. The country was on heightened alert; paranoia was in the air.

Travelling out of the country by rail, we tourists were warned not to take photos from the train. I ignored the warnings. One of the guides saw me taking photos and told me to put my camera away. Hours later, as we neared the border with China, the train stopped. I saw the same guide walking down the train aisle with four soldiers. He was asking, “Where is the Singaporean?” I was scared. When they reached me, they told everyone else to get off the train except for me. After more than an hour of questioning, the rest of the passengers were allowed back on and the train continued its journey into China.

I left North Korea first feeling afraid that I had gotten my tour guides, who were good people, into trouble; then I was angry that this world where the Cold War had never ended could still exist – a world marred by mutual suspicion and distrust. But I did not realize that trip would later lead to more than a decade of work with non-profit Choson Exchange, training North Koreans in economic policy, entrepreneurship and business.

 A Choson Exchange training session in North Korea

Image: Choson Exchange

We all see North Korea through various lenses: through the US-North Korea nuclear stalemate, as a national cause for unification, as a human rights and humanitarian crisis, as a “crazy dictatorship”, or as an impoverished state. 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.

Because this is a country of individuals, every person with whom we engage makes a difference. It is easy to believe that North Korea is such a massive geopolitical challenge that only the governments of the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan can tackle it. But individuals can make an impact at a grassroots level that collectively makes a difference. Many years ago one of our volunteers, a lawyer, visited North Korea to share his expertise in business law, and a local asked him what was meant by the rule of law. Excited by his stories about negotiating joint-ventures (how many lawyers get a rapt audience of a hundred for a workshop on memoranda of understanding?), she said she wanted to be a lawyer and asked if we could bring the study guide for the US law school entrance exam. This North Korean, then a fresh graduate, also said that talking to him had changed her opinion of foreigners.

 

We built a network of volunteers to run these programmes in North Korea because we believe that individual grassroot connections can collectively make an impact on the big issue of North Korea’s place in the world, and the myriad of new challenges that will come if the US and North Korea repair their relationship, or if the country opens up or reunifies with South Korea. We want to encourage individuals like you to bring creative solutions to the North Korean issue, to connect with other locals and to engage this challenge in any number of ways. And we believe your ideas and actions will help us resolve this globally important Cold War legacy.

Andrew Kim, who ran the CIA Korea Mission Center and initiated the current rounds of US-North Korea talks, said: “The conflict is not only about denuclearization, it is also about redrawing the geopolitical and geo-economic map for North Korea… Imagine how a successful outcome of the current negotiations would positively impact the people of North Korea, the Korean Peninsula as a whole, the entire region, and the entire world in three to five years.”

It is a global issue, but not one that just belongs to politicians and government officials. This is an issue in which every one of us can make a difference.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How traditional Islamic giving can play a role in the future of aid

G20 LIVE: G20 Leaders’ Communiqué Antalya Summit, 15-16 November 2015

Business uncertainty rises as US grants only temporary exception to EU for steel and aluminium tariffs

Resisting EU budget cuts

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) of 22/05/2018: EU relations with key trading partners

The US and EU decisively oppose Erdogan’s plans for Turkey and beyond

On youth unemployment: unemployment is even bleaker for youth with disabilities

Commission reports on progress in risk reduction in the Banking Union and calls for faster progress on Capital Markets Union ahead of EU Leaders’ meetings

Brexit talks stalled at launch; issues with European Court’s authority in Britain

Chart of the day: These are the cities where the World Cup threatens productivity the most

Lessons from dealing with the collapse of Lehman Brothers

UN health agency highlights lifestyle choices that can prevent onset of dementia, as millions more succumb each year

AI has huge potential – but it won’t solve all our problems

Myanmar: Conflict resolution at ‘total standstill’, military commanders must answer for crimes against humanity

Eurozone to enter the winter…

Climate change helped destroy these four ancient civilisations

Progress in medical research: leading or lagging behind?

Why the Fourth Industrial Revolution needs more arts graduates

New book honours UN women who made HERstory

Unlock the value proposition for Connected Insurance

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate change-the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, yet overlooked in climate negotiations?” IFMSA wonders from COP21 in Paris

“Two Pack” approved: Is democracy chased away from Brussels?

Outgoing UN official praises Iraq’s ‘exemplary peaceful transfer of power’ at the top

Commuters in these cities spend more than 8 days a year stuck in traffic

The anti-vaccine movement shows the peril of a post-truth world

G7 summit: Trump Vs. G6 leaders on trade and climate change

De Gucht: More gaffes with the talks on the EU-US free trade agreement

How electrification can supercharge the energy transition

Half the world’s population is still offline. Here’s why that matters

Friday’s Daily Brief: UN chief in China, counter-terrorism, updates from Bangladesh, Mali and Mozambique

FROM THE FIELD: Faces and Voices of Conflict

Women’s leadership ‘critical’ to future of Niger

Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk from climate crisis, warns UNICEF

Long live Eurozone’s bank supervisor down with the EU budget supremo

Who should be responsible for protecting our personal data?

A new era of computing is coming. How can we make sure it is sustainable?

These are the top risks for doing business around the world

2019: An unpredictable, confrontational and financially ominous year

Light at the end of the Eurozone tunnel

The secret weapon in the fight for sustainability? The humble barcode

UN agency plan tackles ‘hidden cost’ of gold, paves way for safer, mercury-free mining

The Sahel is engulfed by violence. Climate change, food insecurity and extremists are largely to blame

Beyond self-regulation: dealing with Europe’s consumption problem

Doctors are humans too: the benefits of embracing your mental status

Parliaments broadly agree on next steps for economic, monetary union

Strength in unity: Commission makes recommendations for the EU’s next strategic agenda 2019-2024

Globalization 4.0 must build a better world for working people

EU plans to exploit the Mediterranean Sea and the wealth beneath it

What UK and EU risk if Brexit “wins” these elections

Freshwater is saltier – and it’s bad for the planet and our health

UN must provide redress for minorities placed in toxic Kosovo camps, says rights expert

FROM THE FIELD: Finding refuge in the ‘beautiful game’

Mental Health Policy, a significant driver for growth

10 things you – and your government – should know about competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

A Sting Exclusive: “Junior Enterprises themselves carry out projects focusing on the environment”, JADE President Daniela Runchi highlights from Brussels

Eurozone banks to separate risky activities: Can they stay afloat?

Ambassador Zhang wishes from Brussels great success and prosperity for the China-EU relations in the Year of the Dog

It’s Brexit again: Nigel Farage launches a personal campaign to lead the ‘No’ front

Is Eurozone preparing to abandon austerity and stagnation?

It is me

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s