Past Event: Stanford GSB Chapter of Hong Kong

Breakfast, Friday, 16 March 2018

Speaker Series:
Fellow, Center for Int'l Security & Cooperation, Stanford University
Director, KorAid Limited

North Korea: Myths & Difficult Truths of Asia's Least Visited Nation 
Insights Behind the Headlines From 20 Years of Pioneering Aid Programs to the Hermit Kingdom

08:00 Registration
08:30 Remarks, followed by Q&A
10:00 Close & Post-Event Interaction

China Club, 13/F, The Old Bank of China Building, Bank Street, Central, HK
NB: please note strict China Club dress code (no t-shirts, polo shirts, shorts/short trousers, sandals, trainers or slippers permitted)

Cost & Registration: To register, CLICK HERE to RSVP and PAY NOW. For breakfast menu, please CLICK HERE.

Prepaid Online Early Bird Credit Card/PayPal Registration: HKD 380 (if paid online by 23:59 Wednesday night, 14 March). Cash Pre-Registration or Late Bird Online Pre-Payment or Walk-Ins: HKD 580. Only Exact Cash Payment accepted at the Door (whether Cash Pre-Registration or Walk-In). No change provided and no credit cards/checks accepted. No refunds for no-shows or post-payment cancellations. 

Early Bird pre-paid registration is strongly encouraged. Questions/problems? Contact the Chapter at

Guests permitted. No Press permitted.

Speaker's Bio
See below

Event Details:
The Stanford GSB Chapter of Hong Kong is pleased to invite you to breakfast and off-the-record conversation with Katharina Zellweger, the first foreigner to lead int’l humanitarian aid projects to North Korea, beginning in 1995, first for the Catholic relief agency, Caritas, then the Swiss Government, and now for her own NGO. 

A trip that has taken her "from Pyongyang to Stanford" and back again.

While more information has become available about the social, humanitarian, and economic situation in North Korea since the first relief projects in the 1990s, it remains a closed off nation for most visitors – despite sending thousands of workers and overseas for training (China, Mongolia, Kuwait, Russia, Cambodia, among others) and, when with the Swiss Government, bringing up to 100 North Koreans a year abroad for training. Zellweger has seen North Korea go from famine, to mobile phones, from no street lights, to five Pyongyang taxi companies competing for customers.

Yet not just from a political perspective, but from a fundamental aid perspective, the int’l community remains unsure how to grapple with the question of whether and how to engage North Korea, whether politically, or economically, or humanitarianly.  When North Korea has faced food crises, the big questions arise - will the food aid go to the military, be sold in markets, hoarded or otherwise not reach those who need it most? How to make choices when, at the worst of times, only a third of those most vulnerable could be helped?

Based on her hands-on experience and frequent in-country visits, Zellweger share unique insights over 20 years on everyday life in North Korea, changes she has witnesses not visible to most North Korea observers and what can be done to help the country’s citizens move forward, develop and grow, despite a complex political environment.  Her 2012 speech before the Women’s Foreign Policy Group (please click here) and her 2011 talk before the Korea Society (please click here) give a flavor of some of the important insights Zellweger has to share.

And, as a special complement to her talk Zellweger will share posters from her 100+ item collection that, while stylistically influenced by communist brutalist propaganda reflecting “correct” forms of socialist realism, also provide a window to a daily life that goes beyond the famous “Rice is Socialism” image seen above.

The Stanford GSB Chapter of HK could not be more pleased to have Katharina share her frank thoughts on this little understood nation and we hope you can join us for the same.

Speaker's Bio: Katharina Zellweger
Katharina Zellweger is a Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University (and a past Fellow in Korean Studies at Stanford’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center) and is current Managing Director of KorAid Limited, focusing on children in institutions and people with disabilities in North Korea. At Stanford, inter alia, she taught “An Insight into North Korea Society” for graduate and undergraduate students.

Zellweger is a frequent speaker on the topic of the situation of the North Korean people and has over 30 years of field aid worker experience in North Korea (as well as Hong Kong & China, including having been based in Pyongyang for five years (2006-2011) as North Korea country director for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), under the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, focused on food security and personal income generation issues (having led the Swiss Government’s response to North Korea’s first ever request for humanitarian assistance following the 1995 floods). Prior to joining the SDC, Zellweger worked for nearly 30 years at Caritas-Hong Kong, managing on behalf of Caritas Internationalis its pioneering (and first ever permitted religious NGO to do so) North Korean aid and development projects, spending 3 to 4 months in-country yearly over 10 years. 

In 2006, the Vatican named Zellweger as a Dame of St. Gregory the Great, and in 2005 South Korea’s Tji Hak-soon Justice and Peace Foundation honored her with its annual award. She is an active member of the International Women’s Forum and of the Kadoorie Charitable Trust. Through The Korea Society of New York she organized a travelling exhibition of her collection of North Korean socialist posters (recently shown at the HKU Museum and Art Gallery) and continues to accompany high-profile groups to North Korea, including most recently for the Tages-Anzeiger, Switzerland’s largest newspaper.

Zellweger holds an MA in international administration from the School of International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, and a Swiss diploma in trade, commerce, and business administration, as well as having apprenticed with Switzerland’s national agricultural management program.