Tag Archives: Young professionals

North Koreans are visiting Singapore – whither the ‘hermit’ kingdom?

A nonprofit in Singapore is paving a path that some say may help open up North Korea to the outside world and stoke interest in private commerce and economic growth there.

Published by The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 18, 2013

By Tom Benner, Contributor / September 18, 2013


Neither Dennis Rodman nor tough talk from Washington and Seoul have improved relations with the new regime in North Korea.

But a little-known professionals’ network is trying to pave a path that may help open up the reclusive North to the outside world and stoke interest in private commerce and economic growth there.

The Choson Exchange, a nonprofit based in Singapore, regularly sends business volunteers to Pyongyang and brings North Koreans to Singapore, in an effort to connect young people through workshops in economic policy, international business, and law.

The group’s ability to network with young North Korean professionals signals an apparent willingness within the regime to open up to market ideas, the one force that analysts say can drive positive change in the country. “The idea behind all of this,” says Geoffrey See, the founder of the program, “is that we would like to see North Korea integrate with the rest of the world.” Continue reading …

Some North Koreans Get Business Internships in Singapore

Published by The Atlantic, June 11, 2013

While world leaders bluster, young professionals in Southeast Asia build bridges with their peers from Pyongyang.

Tom Benner

The nuclear threats, rocket launches, and violent rhetoric out of North Korean over the past few months have been countered by the international community with everything from diplomatic condemnations, economic sanctions, and displays of military hardware, all with the elusive goal of reducing tensions with the world’s last Stalinist state.

So far, to no avail. “The United States will not stand by while North Korea seeks to develop a nuclear-armed missile that can target the United States,” a frustrated U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel complained from the sidelines last weekend at an Asian-Pacific defense summit in Singapore. “No country should conduct ‘business as usual’ with a North Korea that threatens its neighbors.”

Then there is Dennis Rodman-style basketball diplomacy, inspired by the sensationalist American media company VICE. There were some fine photo ops with flamboyant basketball star sharing a courtside table with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and a bump in HBO ratings, but again, no real breakthroughs yet.

Far away from the spotlight, however, a group founded by Singaporean young professionals is taking a much different approach: they are quietly making inroads and building bridges with their peers in North Korea.

The Choson Exchange, a Singapore-registered non-profit, for the past three years has 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 in economic policy and international business. Continue reading …