Felix Abt, author of A Capitalist in North Korea and founder of the DPRK’s Pyongsu Pharmaceutical Factory, did an online interview in which he discusses some of the surprising quirks of living in North Korea…such as getting locked out of your LinkedIn account (we blogged about this back in March 2009).
Here is a blurb:
Is North Korea Now Open for Business?
Not quite. But Abt tells me he believes opening up to commerce has “become a more important priority” for the North Korean government over the past ten years.
“I’m getting a lot of proactive proposals from the North Koreans, which we haven’t experienced in the past, so there is quite a big change on that front,” Abt says. “My business partners in Pyongyang can use [file-sharing service] Dropbox, they can travel more often now, and more North Korean companies have been allowed, particularly in 2012, to interact with foreign ones.”
Still, obstacles exist for anyone seeking to do business in this most frontier of frontier markets.
Power cuts are frequent, infrastructure is crumbling, and sanctions remain strict. On the other hand, Abt says the hardships he encountered cemented deep personal bonds between him and his colleagues.
“We had to solve practical problems every day; it was a daily struggle that brought us close,” Abt recalls. “We worked hard together, but we also partied together, went to karaoke, had good dinners, went on excursions, and had fun together. I never had the feeling that I was an alien in their eyes or a potential enemy or a spy — the relationship was quite relaxed and friendly, driven by our joint goals.”
Abt and staff members celebrate International Women’s Day in Pyongyang (Photo: Felix Abt)
So, would he do it again?
“I like to go back from time to time to eat some good food and have a merry evening, but otherwise, of course, I am happy where I am now,” Abt says.
“Seven years is a long time.”