On Wednesday, 14 June 2017, the “Doing Business in North Korea: Modernization and New Consumerism” conference was organized and hosted by the Institute of Far Eastern Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam University (Seoul) in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and the University of North Korean Studies. The conference was the third in the series, held with the purpose of expanding the international tendency to view North Korea solely through the lens of security. Security-focused conferences rarely contribute to information and knowledge supporting positive engagement that would work to improve the lives of average North Korean citizens and help to bring about peace on the peninsula. Instead, the focus here was shifted to highlight the notable socio-economic transformations that have been occurring in North Korea in recent years and how one can leverage this chance to further engage with the DPRK.
The conference was divided into two panels chaired by Dr. Dean Ouellette, Associate Professor at Kyungnam University, and Tony Mitchell, Managing Director of Korea Associates Business Consultancy, respectively. The first panel on business development included a presentation by Chad O’Carroll, NK News, on domestic e-commerce and online developments followed by Choson Exchange’s Andray Abrahamian, who shared his insights on the rise of entrepreneurship and service related industries throughout the country.
The second panel focused on “Banking, Consumerism, and Localization” in North Korea and began with Paektu Cultural Exchange’s Michael Spavor’s presentation on new consumerism with regards to products, packaging and the creation of markets. Professor Wen Cui then presented an in-depth presentation on the recent developments on domestic banking and credit systems; and finally, Kyungnam University’s professor Lim Eul-Chul delivered an insightful summary of the second panel and an analysis of the policy, localization and their drive for modernization in North Korea.
North Korea’s New Consumerism: Products, Packaging and the Creation of New Markets
Paektu Cultural Exchange’s director Michael Spavor’s presentation addressed some of the significant changes and developments in regards to the rise of locally made consumer products in North Korea over the past 3-5 years. It examined and compared examples of new product designs, influences, and marketing, and looked at some of the possible reasons behind the creation of these new products and how they are causing changes in society and why that might be important.
Michael explored some of the contributing factors to these trends and why these developments are taking place, but more importantly what effects these newly made domestic products are having on the people who are demanding, buying and consuming them.
Materials and information gathered for this presentation were drawn from the speaker’s on-the-ground knowledge, unique experiences and relationships working closely with the DPRK over the past 19 years in developmental and humanitarian assistance programs, sporting and cultural events, as well as trade and investment activities in collaboration with various state departments and ministries.
Using a collection of photographs, videos, and materials including interviews, advertisements, and samples of new products, this presentation documented this new phenomenon involving recent marketing, distribution, packaging, and certification systems, which have rapidly been expanding to industries and businesses all around the country.
Selected images from the “Modernization and New Consumerism” presentation by Paektu Cultural Exchange:
Upcoming Programs and Academic trip to North Korea
- August 4th to 9th 2017 | Exploring the Rason SEZ’s International Trade Exhibition, Investment Opportunities & Economic Environment (6 Days / 5 Nights)
- September 22nd to 26th~28th 2017 | 2017 Seminar on Investment to the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Zone & 13th Pyongyang International Fall Trade Fair (5 Days / 4 Nights)
- October 1st to 9th 2017 | MADE IN DPRK: Exploring and Understanding North Korea’s Rural Markets, Manufacturing and New Consumerism Trends (9 Days / 8 Nights)
Upcoming 2017 / 2018 DPRK Trips & Delegations
Other Links from the Conference
- Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation (FNF) (Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung) Korea – Article
- FNF – Website
- Institute of Far Eastern Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam University – Website
- IFES – Article
- Conference Handout – 170614_IFES
Paektu Cultural Exchange
Paektu Cultural Exchange is a non-profit organization facilitating sustainable cooperation and cross-cultural exchanges involving sports, culture, tourism, business and trade with the DPRK.