Felix Abt lived and worked in North Korea from 2002 to 2009. His anomalous position as a self-confessed capitalist in the most stringent communist country on the planet led to a multitude of fascinating, unexpected, and even bizarre experiences. He has captured all this in his intriguing book A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom. According to Bradley K.Martin, author of Under the Loving Care Of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty and Asia news correspondent, Abt's book reveals "otherwise unavailable details and unique insights" into this most secretive of countries and its people. No one can read this acutely observed account without having many of their preconceptions turned on their heads.
Most recent Western publications have relentlessly vilified North Korea, focusing on the horrific years of the 1990s when natural disasters and mass starvation ravaged the country, or on gruesome stories from defectors and former concentration camps inmates. But Felix Abt paints a rather different picture of a country emerging from these horrors, a nation fiercely proud and determinedly self-reliant. It is a country in the throes of change, and he was not only witness to, but also participated in and initiated many extraordinary and surprising firsts.
He saw the first mini-skirts in North Korea, Happy Meals, rock and roll, Hello Kitty, and Mickey Mouse. Perhaps more significantly, he was closely involved in setting up the first foreign chamber of commerce in the country, the first business school, a pharmaceutical company that was the first North Korean enterprise to win foreign contracts in competitive bidding, and a joint venture software company that was the first to export award winning software. His tales of these and many other remarkable ventures are compelling reading, especially against a background of communist bureaucracy and intransigence, and strangulating Western embargoes.
Ruediger Frank, economics professor at the University of Vienna and proclaimed North Korea expert describes A Capitalist in North Korea as a "must-read" and says, "This book challenges many of our views of an allegedly isolated and static country."
Felix Abt is a Swiss-born businessman who has lived and worked as a senior executive on behalf of multinational groups and smaller enterprises in nine countries on three continents. In his seven years in North Korea, he was given unprecedented access to the country. He interviewed hundreds of Koreans from high-ranking officials to ordinary workers and felt compelled to give the world a true picture of a society that is largely misunderstood, misrepresented, and changing.