Ice cream in Singapore, coffee in Pyongyang

(Saturday profile in Today newspaper, April 20, 2013)

By Tom Benner

The United States and South Korea are on high alert over North Korea’s nuclear threats. But far from the frenzied actions of officialdom grappling with the situation, a group founded by young Singaporean professionals has been quietly making inroads and building bridges with their peers in North Korea.

The Choson Exchange, a Singapore-registered non-profit, has for the last three years regularly sent volunteers to Pyongyang and Rason, and more recently brought North Koreans to Singapore, seeking to connect young people and institutions in North Korea with workshops and training in economic policy and international business and finance.

“What really surprised me was how they seemed like any other normal young people,” Choson Exchange volunteer Desmond Lim said of a trip that brought five young North Koreans to Singapore last year for month-long internships.

“The girls really liked ice cream, so I was taking them to Ben & Jerry’s and Cold Stone. They would have double scoops and triple scoops. The girls liked to shop, the guys didn’t.” Continue reading …

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