A Columbia student responded to the announcement of my talk:
I would be interested in why a human rights club is putting on what appears to be a sympathetic presentation on one of the world’s most notorious human rights abusers. Shouldn’t you be focusing on the plight of north Koreans rather than the “misunderstood” nature of an autocratic regime?
Questions like his come up a lot. North Korea is an evocative subject for many and people approach it from different perspectives. I believe a few clarifications will help.
First, I think the shortened title might imply a slightly different meaning than I intended when I suggested “North Korea: How Business Strategy Demystifies the World’s Most Misunderstood Country”. I’m not looking at anyone’s strategy in the business world. I’m using the principles of business strategy, especially Greenwald and Kahn’s, to illuminate the situation there.
Second, I am talking about understanding the general North Korean situation, not just the people in power in North Korea. I will also look at the people as well as five other nations.
Third, I distinguish understanding from support. Acting without understanding risks counterproductive results, which I believe history has borne out many times. I believe you can influence a situation better when you know, among other things, the various parties’ incentives, perspectives, and motivations. Knowledge of none of these for any party implies support.
As my ebook’s introduction begins
“What can I do?”
This question drives interest in North Korea perhaps more than any other after asking what visiting is like.
Even people who know little about the rest of the world sense something about North Korea they’d like to help with. Nobody sees what they can do.
This book will help you understand.
I believe you need to understand North Korea’s situation from a strategic level both globally and regionally to see what you can and can’t do and what may or may not work.
I also believe you can learn the relevant overall situation in a few chapters. As unusual as the situation there is, I believe it is simple and that you can understand it easily. I believe this understanding could contribute to contributing freedom to the lives of tens of millions of people in one of the least free places on Earth.