Conference Summary


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.

Panel 1 with Dr. Dean Ouette, Chad O’Carrol and Dr. Andray Abrahamian “Doing Business in North Korea: Modernization and New Consumerism” by: Michael Spavor, Paektu Cultural Exchange

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.

Organizers and presenters at the “Doing Business in North Korea: Modernization and New Consumerism,”  Paektu Cultural Exchange

Presentation Summary
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.

During the Conference “Doing Business in North Korea: Modernization and New Consumerism,”  Paektu Cultural Exchange

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:

Canned DPRK (North Korea) Dog Meat, older packaging design.  (Kor: 단고기 통졸임) #MADEINDPRK by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Can of grape soda, newly designed packaging  (Kor: 포도 탄산단물 – 고려항공) #MADEINDPRK by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Can of DPRK (North Korea) grape soda, new packaging design. (Kor: 포도 탄산단물 – 고려항공) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Bag of DPRK (North Korean) BBQ Potato Chips, new packaging design. (Kor: 불고기맛 튀기) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Bag of DPRK (North Korea) BBQ Potato Chips, new packaging design. (Kor: 불고기맛 튀기) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

The Gwangbok Department Store in Pyongyang which sells many MADE in DPRK products. (Kor: 광복 백화점, 평양) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Toothpaste sales booth at the 2017 Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair Pyongyang, DPRK where you can find many MADE in DPRK products. (Kor: 치약판매원 – 2017 평양 봄철국제상품전람회) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Tangerine Soda MADE in DPRK (North Korea) with QR code. (Kor: 귤향탄산단물(당함유량7%) 포장형식:1.25L/수지병 등록날자:2016년3월24일 주소:평양시 락랑구역 관문3동 전화번호:02-973-5423) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

An advertisement for the DPRK (North Korean) company called “My Hometown” [Nae GoHyang]. They sell sports equipment among other goods like cigarettes and alcohol (Kor: 내고항 광고) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Bottle of DPRK (North Korean) Energy Sports Drink resembling “Red Bull”, new packaging design. (Kor: 에네르기활성음료) #MADEINDPRK  by: Paektu Cultural Exchange

Upcoming Programs and Academic trip to North Korea




Upcoming 2017 / 2018 DPRK Trips & Delegations


Other Links from the Conference

  • Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation (FNF) (Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung) Korea – Article
  • FNFWebsite
  • Institute of Far Eastern Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam UniversityWebsite
  • IFESArticle
  • Conference Handout170614_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.







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