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A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

andlt;bandgt;Business in North Korea: a paradoxical and fascinating situation is interpreted by a true insider.andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;In 2002, the Swiss power company ABB appointed Felix Abt its country director for North Korea. The Swiss Entrepreneur lived and worked in North Korea for seven years, one of the few foreign businessmen there. After the experience, Abt felt compelled to write andlt;Iandgt;A Capitalist in North Koreaandlt;/Iandgt; to describe the multifaceted society he encountered.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt; North Korea, at the time, was heavily sanctioned by the UN, which made it extremely difficult to do business. Yet, he discovered that it was a place where plastic surgery and South Korean TV dramas were wildly popular and where he rarely needed to walk more than a block to grab a quick hamburger. He was closely monitored, and once faced accusations of spying, yet he learned that young North Koreans are hopefuland#8212;signing up for business courses in anticipation of a brighter, more open, future. In andlt;Iandgt;A Capitalist in North Koreaandlt;/Iandgt;, Abt shares these and many other unusual facts and insights about one of the world's most secretive nations.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;bandgt;An interview with author Felix Abt:andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;bandgt;From your stay in North Korea between the years 2002 to 2009, you said that you experienced "a change in the North Korean society." What is the most significant change that has happened during those years?andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;a) the emergence of a middle class that developed a surprising business savvy and b) a trend to more consumerism. Indeed, more and more people got involved in privately organized trade, transportation, small-scale manufacturing such as furniture production, tailoring, homemade food sales you name it, from the grass root level up to family members of the elite, particularly women. The informal economy has grown substantially over the last decade.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;bandgt;You managed andlt;iandgt;Peonyang Business Schoolandlt;/iandgt; which provided a 'mini MBA' course. You mentioned about the North Korean workers "that The North Koreans, like their southern brethren, were hard workersand#8212;and it showed. Laborers sometimes stayed overnight and worked weekends without resting, sometimes even for weeks if an urgent project needed to be finished." According to your experience, how well do you think the North Korean people would adapt to the capitalistic system?andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Since the Public Distribution System largely collapsed in the crisis years of the nineties, most people have survived with a host of mostly unofficial private business activities. So they have already gone through a capitalist apprenticeship of sorts. If more reforms accompanied with institution building are carried out even more people will get used to a market economy and to responsible capitalism.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;bandgt;In your book, you wrote: "But when people became so keen on getting a USB to watch foreign movies, I stopped offering expensive presents and gave them those tiny electronics." In North Korea, watching foreign movies is strictly banned. However, in your description, the North Korean people appear to freely enjoy foreign culture and materials. What are your thought on the censorship and government control in North Korea?andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Despite censorship, many people have been watching foreign movies and materials. And they liked USB as these tiny electronics, unlike CDs and DVDs, would not get stuck in a DVD-player or a computer in case of a power cut and an inspection.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;bandgt;In your book, you mentioned how you had comparably more opportunities to meet the 'regular people' in North Korea than other foreigners. Did it seem like they actually believe the government-sponsored propaganda? Did they have faith in 'North Korean communism' or 'Juche (self-reliance)' idea?andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt; There are still a lot of people believing in North Korea's ideology. On the other hand there has been a strong trend to consumerism particularly among the emerging middle class but also among the children of the elite which would rather embrace Deng Xiaoping's credo: "To get rich is glorious!"andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;bandgt;You spent substantial amount of time in North Korea and also visited the South as well. What seems to be the major difference between the citizens? What is the task to be tackled in order to reduce the cultural gap between the countries after reunification?andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;When I worked on joint North-South business projects (sand, mining, dairy production, mineral water production on Mount Paekdu etc.) I could feel a strong cultural gap and mistrust. Both sides felt the other side wanted to cheat them, but the misunderstandings had much to do with a lack of knowledge of the other side's thinking and motivations. I as a non-Korean saw myself in a strange position of explaining North Koreans the intentions of South Koreans and vice versa. Unfortunately, this sort of business diplomacy fostering mutual understanding and capacity building came to a complete halt when Lee Myung-bak was elected president.

Synopsis:

In 2002, the Swiss power company ABB appointed Felix Abt its country director for North Korea. The Swiss Entrepreneur lived and worked in North Korea for seven years, one of the few foreign businessmen there. After the experience, Abt felt compelled to write andlt;Iandgt;A Capitalist in North Koreaandlt;/Iandgt; to describe the multifaceted society he encountered.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt; North Korea, at the time, was heavily sanctioned by the UN, which made it extremely difficult to do business. Yet, he discovered that it was a place where plastic surgery and South Korean TV dramas were wildly popular and where he rarely needed to walk more than a block to grab a quick hamburger. He was closely monitored, and once faced accusations of spying, yet he learned that young North Koreans are hopefuland#8212;signing up for business courses in anticipation of a brighter, more open, future. In andlt;Iandgt;A Capitalist in North Koreaandlt;/Iandgt;, Abt shares these and many other unusual facts and insights about one of the world's most secretive nations.

About the Author

andlt;Bandgt;Felix Abtandlt;/Bandgt; co-founded the European Business Association as well as the Pyongyang Business School in North Korea. Prior to this, Abt worked in Europe, Africa and Asia as a senior executive for F. Hoffmann-La Roche and the ABB Group. He currently lives in Vietnam, and remains a shareholder in various North Korean joint ventures.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780804844390
Author:
Abt, Felix
Publisher:
Tuttle Publishing
Subject:
Korea
Subject:
World History-Korea
Subject:
news in; facts about Korea; Korean companies; Korean business; Korea travel; Pyongyang; North Korea
Subject:
Korean news; facts about Korea; Korean companies; Korean business; Korea travel; Pyongyang; North Korea; north korean business; business in north korea; Kim Jong Un
Edition Description:
Hardcover with Jacket
Publication Date:
20140831
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
16-page color insert
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
203.2 x 130.302 mm

Related Subjects

Biography » Business
Business » International
Engineering » Civil Engineering » General
History and Social Science » World History » Korea

A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom New Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages Tuttle Publishing - English 9780804844390 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In 2002, the Swiss power company ABB appointed Felix Abt its country director for North Korea. The Swiss Entrepreneur lived and worked in North Korea for seven years, one of the few foreign businessmen there. After the experience, Abt felt compelled to write andlt;Iandgt;A Capitalist in North Koreaandlt;/Iandgt; to describe the multifaceted society he encountered.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt; North Korea, at the time, was heavily sanctioned by the UN, which made it extremely difficult to do business. Yet, he discovered that it was a place where plastic surgery and South Korean TV dramas were wildly popular and where he rarely needed to walk more than a block to grab a quick hamburger. He was closely monitored, and once faced accusations of spying, yet he learned that young North Koreans are hopefuland#8212;signing up for business courses in anticipation of a brighter, more open, future. In andlt;Iandgt;A Capitalist in North Koreaandlt;/Iandgt;, Abt shares these and many other unusual facts and insights about one of the world's most secretive nations.
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