Personal Initiative Training for North Korean Refugee Entrepreneurs


DateSeptember 15, 2021






September 15, 2021 Supported by Community Chest of Korea, The Asia Foundation successfully delivered its ‘Personal Initiative (PI) Training’ for North Korean refugee entrepreneurs. A total of fifteen North Korean refugee entrepreneurs from diverse industries and ages participated in the six-week online training program. Based on findings by The Asia Foundation, the program aimed to strengthen the entrepreneurial mindsets of North Korean entrepreneurs significantly challenged by the extreme competitiveness of South Korea’s market-based economy. 


The PI training model is an alternative approach to traditional entrepreneurship training, developed by a group of researchers in Germany after the unification of the East and West. This model is empirically proven to generate better business results than best-in-class entrepreneurship training approaches, as peer-reviewed by the Journal Science in collaboration with the World Bank Group.


From August to September 2021, the PI Training program tailored for North Korean refugee entrepreneurs was facilitated by other North Korean entrepreneurs, trained and certified as trainers earlier this year. The program consisted of short lectures, in-depth group discussions, and assignments to equip participating entrepreneurs with personal initiative traits like self-starting behavior, future-thinking, and overcoming barriers.


Although not much time has passed since the completion of the program, during their interviews with program staff, participating entrepreneurs reported immediate impacts of their PI training on their businesses. One participant, who operates a small restaurant and seriously considered closing down her business due to the effects of COVID-19, noted that “PI Training gave her new hope to resume her business.” Today, she is developing and exploring an updated menu for her customers through new methods of receiving honest feedback and optimizing her business and operations for delivery orders in hopes of increasing and recovering her sales levels.


Another participant, who operates a grape farm, stated that PI Training helped her overcome her most recent business challenge. Affected by cold-weather damage, the participant was in a situation where she needed to throw away over thirty percent of her grape harvests because the grapes were too ‘small and ugly’ to supply to her usual buyers. However, the taste quality was the same. Using her new skills from the PI Training, she developed a way to commercialize these grapes by making a small snack pack, of which the appearance of the grape did not matter. She minimized her cold-weather damage sales losses through creative thinking and maintained sales critical meet her sales levels.




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