Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – North Korea (North Korea) is considered a dictatorial country. Everything is managed by the leader.
Then, the residents have to work hard to make ends meet in the midst of an economy that is almost paralyzed due to economic sanctions.
However, not everyone believes this assumption, one of whom is Geoffrey See. Not only does he not believe it, See even wants to change all that.
See is a Singaporean and former consultant at management consulting firm Bain who left a career earning tens of millions to develop North Korea’s business potential.
Quote CNBC Internationalhe has been teaching North Koreans the basics of business and entrepreneurship for almost 10 years through the Singapore-based non-profit organization Choson Exchange.
“I think people tend to forget that there are 22 million-25 million North Koreans, most of whom live simply,” he said.
See’s non-profit organization supports entrepreneurs and individuals interested in business in North Korea by providing training, internship and business mentorship programs. The program is available to residents living inside and outside North Korea.
See believes North Koreans are trying to improve their quality of life through entrepreneurship and business ventures and, like other countries, they also want to be connected to the world economy.
North Korea is known as a closed country with a difficult business situation. So why does See think teaching North Koreans business is a good idea?
“I used to think that this communist country and its people would not be interested in running a business. [Ternyata] they have very strong personal aspirations to prove something. So, when I left North Korea, I thought, what can I do to help them?”
See founded his non-profit organization, Choson Exchange, in 2010 and has since educated more than 1,300 North Koreans. He said that one of his training classes was attended by 20 students who were very shy.
“They were very nervous. They read all the study materials we provided, but didn’t dare ask questions,” said See.
Because the program See founded is not for profit and has no ties to the North Korean government, See and his volunteers try to avoid discussing capitalism.
“We do not teach capitalism. We consider this program as business and entrepreneurship training. Most North Koreans believe this is what can be implemented in their country’s system,” he said.
Even though the North Korean government limits its population’s internet use, See is aware that the use of domestically made cellphones there is increasingly mushrooming.
“We see food delivery applications appearing on domestic mobile phones. We don’t know how often they are used, but it’s clear that residents are experimenting with new things,” he said.
Close trade relations with China have exposed North Koreans to Chinese technology companies and become interested in e-commerce.
“They come back often [ke kelas] and bring up examples they’ve seen, like WeChat or Taobao, and say we’re interested in finding out if we can build something similar in North Korea,” See said.