Pyongyang: Korean Spirit, Arirang and Future of Urban Peninsula

August in 2019 has been exceptionally productive for FCS. A conversation with our Chief Strategy Officer Peggy Tse took place this week in the “Humans of FCS” as Peggy reflects on her first visit to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

On behalf of FCS, Peggy spent one week in Pyongyang, the country’s capital city, to lead a workshop about business and finance for 150+ local government officials, entrepreneurs, professors and university researchers. The workshop is part of the Pyongyang Urban Innovation Week hosted by Choson Exchange, a good friend and working partner of FCS.

Humans of FCS: So it has been two weeks now since your return from the Pyongyang Urban Innovation Week. Could you please share with our readers why FCS and you decide to work on projects in DPRK?

Peggy: FCS is driven by the mission to build dialogues with as many stakeholders as possible and use a collaborative approach to address development challenges in today’s world. Given our commitment and open mind to facilitate knowledge exchange, I believe our work will have outsized impacts in frontier markets such as DPRK. The team was fortunate enough to explore the country with Choson Exchange and its very experienced team. The partnership has given us confidence to find a way forward of supporting the entrepreneurship scene in DPRK.

Humans of FCS: What has been achieved during the Pyongyang Urban Innovation Week on 3–10 August 2019? How did you contribute your professional experience and what did you observe from the interactions with local participants?

Peggy: The Pyongyang Urban Innovation Week aims to provide business-related trainings to better equip Korean government officials, entrepreneurs, professors and university researchers. Choson Exchange is convinced that such education work is essential to help DPRK develop an enabling environment for businesses to make contribution to the public good. And in my session, I shared the best practices and useful implementation knowledge on the topic of project finance.

To my surprise, I noticed participants can quickly relate my teachings (e.g. fundraising and risk management) to their respective areas of work (e.g. infrastructure, new product concepts and even small community businesses). Despite language barriers, I am truly amazed by the Koreans’ demonstration of learning abilities, which by the way are very essential in the fast-changing 21st century and the advent of artificial intelligence. They are able to ask critical questions, apply new information quickly to solve current problems, and most important of all, be very creative. On the final day of the event, the local participants were asked to generate ideas to enhance the passenger experience in Pyongyang Metro. Our best presentation group managed to leverage the fact that Pyongyang Metro is the deepest subway in the world and extend the facility to include the deepest hotel providing the “deepest-in-love” wedding services in the world!

Humans of FCS: What else did you do in Pyongyang outside of the workshops? Can you describe which part of the city impressed you most and which part you believe can have room for improvement?

Peggy: We spent a few days visiting an economic zone, two recently-developed districts dedicated to R&D, various factories and public service facilitates to understand how the overall economy and different industries operate in DPRK. To me, the strong emphasis and recurring theme of science and technology education in all sectors is a promising sign of the country’s economic development. One can see the Koreans’ enthusiastic spirit of adopting latest mobility concepts such as bike sharing in Pyongyang as well as creating a customized version of planned districts to provide additional encouragement to outstanding scientists. In some ways, I hope to see Pyongyang continues to develop new competencies and an overall balanced economy. Industrial management skills such as outsourcing and benchmarking to achieve greater value chain complexity can be a way to raise competitiveness and increase economic contribution.

Humans of FCS: It seems to be a very intense yet productive trip for you, Peggy. Did you take some time to enjoy and have fun? Will you go back to Pyongyang? If yes, when and why?

Grand Arirang Mass Games at Rungrado May Day Stadium

Peggy: Of course we did! We had the privilege to watch the Grand Arirang Mass Games in one of the evenings at Rungrado May Day Stadium. It is the most well-orchestrated performance I have ever seen. This year’s theme is “the People’s Country” and it is about the 70+ years of bittersweet history of DPRK. The performance ended gracefully with a pledge of peace and prosperity to the global community. I have to say DPRK and Pyongyang have so much to offer. One week is definitely not enough. Our team at FCS has already been in talks with Choson Exchange on next steps to deepen our involvement and contribution in DPRK. Frankly, we are equally interested to work within the country and also outside to raise awareness and promote communication. FCS is already hooked!

Reference: Official Website of Choson Exchange

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