Archive for the ‘Choson Exchange’ Category

Choson Exchange Update

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

According to Choson Exchange:

Post-Lecture Brief on North Korea’s Economy/Business Environment

This is our report from our lecture series on Finance and Economic Strategy in Pyongyang. It captures things we learn that will enable us to provide better training, and helps to inform readers on North Korea’s business and economic environment. Highlights are below.

Need and demand for skills upgrading: Lecturers agreed that there is a strong need for training as participants’ financial knowledge and skills, with a few exceptions, are shallow. This is also reinforced by our survey findings. More importantly, participants expressed strong interest in further training programs, which is not always the case in North Korea.

Managing Knowledge-Based Economies & FDI of key interest: Based on discussions with participants, knowledge-based economies and the management of FDI inflows are of great interest to our audience.

Newly-formed economic institution non-operational as yet: An institution meant to play a key role in economic development and was formed in recent years have not yet become operational.

Choson Exchange also received some coverage in the Korea Times:

While the outside world has been keen to know what was going on inside North Korea regarding the unfulfilled high drama of a key Workers’ Party conference, a group of foreigners actually stayed in Pyongyang during that time, meeting with top officials such as Choe Thae-bok, secretary of the Workers’ Party Central Committee.

“Choe Thae-bok highly commended our work and sent the president of Kim Chaek University and the vice president of the State Academy of Sciences to meet with us privately,” said Geoffrey See, a Singaporean, who led an international group of 11 people, hailing from the United States, the U.K., New Zealand, China, and Malaysia.

Besides the group’s diverse country representations, their academic credentials are also pretty impressive. See is a recent Yale graduate. The others are from universities such as Oxford, M.I.T, and University of Chicago.

They were not in North Korea for political purposes, but their presence attracted enough attention from North Koreans. Reporters from the North’s official Korean Central News Agency also tagged along with them.

Apparently, the North Koreans were quite impressed by their academic backgrounds too. “The North Korean official would introduce us to others by saying: `This person is from this university.’ And people would respond: ‘Oh, I heard about the name of the school!’” See said.

What See and his friends are doing now may not hit the international headlines. But it’s potentially a very significant step that may have a lasting implication for the future of the world’s most isolated nation.

See is the director of the Choson Exchange, a non-profit organization that provides training to North Koreans in international finance, economics and law.

“North Koreans need some kind of help in these areas,” See said in an interview at a coffee shop in Beijing Friday afternoon.

In Pyongyang, See and his group members taught North Koreans how to use computers for e-training in finance. They also offered lectures on the U.S. subprime crisis and the possibility of the Chinese yuan as an international trade settlements currency.

Although North Korea is under international sanctions, what See’s group does is not illegal as they only offer educational training and don’t do business with North Koreans.

In interacting in an “up-close and personal” manner, See and his group discovered something surprising. “The North Koreans were actually quite sophisticated people. They know what’s happening in the outside world,” said a financial analyst who went to Pyongyang with See, but preferred not to be identified.

All people in the Choson Exchange work on a volunteer basis. For their North Korean trip, they bought their own airplane tickets, and paid for meals and lodgings too. They also have full-time jobs as bankers, consultants, lawyers and Ph.D. students.

Naturally, a question arises as to “why” they do all this?

“We get this question a lot,” said See. “Very few outside people are involved in North Korea today. We want to provide training and make a greater impact,” he said.

“The financial institutions we met are very keen to have us train them and help build the institutions ― especially the newly formed State Development Bank. There is an incredible demand for training,” See said.

Ultimately, the members of the Choson Exchange want their efforts to be part of a greater humanitarian engagement crusade to help North Korea to become integrated into the international community.

Adventurism and personal intellectual curiosity about the “veiled country” was part of their drive as well. “North Korea is opaque, which makes it even more interesting. It fascinates me,” said the financial analyst.

While being frank about their motivations, they were also cautious about not to be seen as naive either. “We don’t want to be seen as a young and idealistic bunch,” said See, who will spend several months at the Kim Il-sung University starting from March next year to share Singapore’s economic development model.

While they are committed to a long and determined effort, they are financially crunched. “What we need most at this time is more funding. We need at least two full-time staffers who will manage our administrative work,” said See, who also hopes to sponsor some North Koreans for overseas training programs.

It’s not clear whether See’s effort of helping North Korea to “come out” will work eventually.

“We don’t assume that they will open up,” See said. “But if you don’t try, you never know.”


Choson Exchange’s Open Source Initiative in North Korea

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

According to Luke Hutchison at Choson Exchange:

Choson Exchange is committed to providing educational materials from the world’s best educational institutions to North Korean students free of charge. This goal is made possible through the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative, in which dozens of top universities all around the world have chosen to post a large number of course materials such as lecture videos, lecture notes, handouts and assignments on the Internet under the Creative Commons open access license. This license gives people all over the world the ability to obtain a top-quality education for free, and gives professors the ability to legally reuse these materials and incorporate them into their own teaching.

Several other sources of top-quality educational materials are also available under Creative Commons licenses, such as lectures on a wide array of topics in mathematics, economics and finance from the Khan Academy, full high-quality textbooks on and encyclopedic content on Recently, WikiBooks and Wikipedia added the ability to select sets of articles and have them assembled into a PDF format e-book for downloading, or these books can be easily printed, bound and shipped with a few mouse clicks through a company called Pedia Press. This provides an easy method for creation of high-quality printed textbooks or e-books that meet the content and pedagogical requirements of our North Korean colleagues.

Choson Exchange has been invited to present Open CourseWare content and e-books at the Pyongyang International Science and Technology Book Fair (PISTBF) in September 2010. The initial content that we will take to North Korea includes both OCW and Wikipedia/WikiBooks-sourced material in the subject areas of business, economics and finance; basic sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology; medicine, including first aid, physiology and gynaecology; computer science and engineering. We plan to bring both electronic copies of lecture videos and lecture notes as well as printed copies of some WikiBooks to use in exhibitions in Pyongyang and training programs.

The quality of many of the materials available through Creative Commons sources is very high. However no educational program can stand on the strength of the educational materials alone, there is a lot of structure and that has to be put in place for an educational program to succeed. For this reason, Choson Exchange is also committed to helping create and support the teaching infrastructure necessary to effectively kickstart training courses incorporating open content. To accomplish this, foreign advisors who are expert in each teaching area are being recruited to assist in helping their North Korean counterparts get up to speed with teaching the new academic material. We are confident this is the fastest way to improve the quality of education, and that improving education will improve quality of life and the level of wellbeing of the country.

Finally, North Korea is unprecedented in its culture and rich history. As we work with our North Korean colleagues to bring the highest quality Creative Commons academic materials from the best educational institutions to North Korea and help them to build programs that employ these resources, we would also like to work with them, if they choose, to contribute North Korean literature, cultural and academic course materials back into the body of Open CourseWare, so that the world can learn about the North Korean story directly from North Koreans themselves. This will add to the richness of the cultural tapestry that is the Creative Commons.


Choson Excange continues to grow

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Geoffrey See at Choson Exchange is putting together a solid team to facilitate innovative academic outreach programs in the DPRK.

Judging from a recent blog post it appears he is having luck making contact with a wide variety of DPRK organizations.

This fall the group plans to launch is first academic program in the DPRK.


Choson Exchange launched

Sunday, March 28th, 2010


Choson Exchange creates training programs for young North Koreans and functions as a facilitator of projects by matching needs, proposing projects, advising on projects, and reaching out to potential partners in North Korea. It works with universities and student groups to design and implement project ideas with North Korean educational and governmental institutions, and help organize visits by interested groups or individuals. In addition to training programs, Choson Exchange conducts evaluations of DPRK learning needs for dissemination and seeks out opportunities for North Korean students to study abroad and vice versa.

1. The Pyongyang Lecture Series
An annual training program for DPRK government officials, managers and academics on topics related to business economics, finance, law and management with a focus on encouraging international trade. Topics for 2010 focus on finance and will be conducted by economists/industry experts/academics from the United States and Singapore.

2. Kim Il Sung University Student Exchange
A program for students and faculty from foreign universities to visit Kim Il Sung University and other academic institutions to build contacts between peers. Proceeds from this program funds our training programs.

3. North Korean Students Abroad
We also actively develop new channels and opportunities for promising North Korean students and young professionals to study abroad and attend international conferences.

4. Architecture, Humanities & Public Health
We are looking to promote two-way exchange and knowledge sharing in non-traditional fields. In 2009, we worked with Pyongyang and Singaporean architects to share architecture knowledge and to reach out to North Korean city planners.

5. Next Generation Leaders
Outside of North Korea, we seek to involve young, promising and entrepreneurial individuals in our work to cultivate the next generation of leaders in North Korean engagement.