The Asia Foundation launches an innovative training program to support North Korean entrepreneurs in South Korea


DateJune 01, 2021






May 27, 2021 – With the support of Community Chest and Korea Startup Forum (KSF), The Asia Foundation Korea successfully delivered a ‘Personal Initiative (PI) Training’ pilot training to 10 current and aspiring entrepreneurs, consisting mostly of North Korean refugees. The 6-week program empowered entrepreneurs with behavioral skills such as self-starting and future orientation. Through a combination of lectures, facilitated discussions, and hands-on activities, the project helped trainees to overcome barriers in their business.


One participant shared that she was able to secure over 100 million KRW of funding through applying what she learned from PI Training to a new business proposal she has been working on. “Everything I learned through PI Training – especially on designing ways to receive constructive feedbacks and proactively searching for opportunities for such feedbacks – was critical in receiving this fund, as well as refining my current business model” she said. “I realized the importance of thinking outside the box: not being constrained to what ‘I’ think, but what the people who will actually using my services would think. The new funding I received proves that this is true.”


Another participant expressed that “PI Training is a ‘must’ for all North Korean refugees that plan to start, or already have their own businesses. According to a recent Asia Foundation Report, North Korean entrepreneurs have difficult time adjusting to the competitive business environment here in South Korea. ‘I think this training model would help us with the right mindset needed to succeed here, as it helped me,’ the participant continued.


The completion of the pilot program also marked the end of the ‘Training of Trainer (ToT)’ program, designed to equip five North Korean entrepreneurs with skills to deliver PI training to other North Korean entrepreneurs. Based on the lessons learned from this pilot, The Asia Foundation will deliver a second group of North Korean refugee entrepreneurs this summer, this time taught by fellow North Korean entrepreneurs.


PI training is an alternative approach to traditional entrepreneurship training, developed by a group of researchers in Germany after the Unification in the East and West. The PI training has been 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.




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