Skip to main content
Intended for healthcare professionals
Restricted access
Research article
First published online March 29, 2018

Elite entrepreneurship education: Translating ideas in North Korea


The recent geographies of education literature have drawn attention to the role of elite business education in circulating new ideas. Our paper presents an ethnography based in North Korea to examine the introduction of an international business education for young generations of North Korean elites (‘donjus’). Drawing on extant literature on translation, our study shows how the translation of entrepreneurial ideas between market-orientated economies and North Korea’s political economy creates different legitimacy tensions within teaching space, and how those tensions are managed to help translate ideas, making them relevant for the local economy. In conclusion, we introduce new understanding into how business schools function as a hub of idea translation and foster the (re-)production of economic elites in an institutional space, where commercial entrepreneurship is still illegal.

Get full access to this article

View all access and purchase options for this article.



Amin A and Thrift N (1995) Institutional issues for the European regions: from markets and plans to socioeconomics and powers of association. Economy and society 24(1): 41–66.
Argote L (1999) Organizational Learning: Creating, Retaining, and Transferring Knowledge. Norwell, MA: Kluwer.
Bathelt H, Glückler J (2014) Institutional change in economic geography. Progress in Human Geography 38(3): 340–363.
Biggart N, Guillén M (1999) Developing difference: Social organization and the rise of the auto industries of South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, and Argentina. American Sociological Review 64: 722–747.
Bitektine A (2011) Toward a theory of social judgments of organizations: The case of legitimacy, reputation, and status. Academy of Management Review 36: 151–179.
Boxenbaum E (2006) Lost in translation: The making of Danish diversity management. American Behavioral Scientist 49(7): 939–948.
Boxenbaum E, Battilana J (2005) Importation as innovation: Transposing managerial practices across fields. Strategic Organization 3(4): 355–383.
Brewer JD (2000) Ethnography. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Brown P, Hesketh A (2004) The Mismanagement of Talent: employability and Jobs in the Knowledge Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bruni A, Gherardi S, Poggio B (2004) Gender and Entrepreneurship: An Ethnographic Approach. Abingdon: Routledge.
Bushe G (2011) Appreciative inquiry: Theory and critique. In: D Boje, B Burnes, J Hassard (eds) The Routledge Companion to Organizational Change. Oxford, UK: Routledge, pp.87–103.
Calori R, Lubatkin M, Very P, et al. (1997) Modelling the origins of nationally bound administrative heritages: A historical institutional analysis of French and British firms. Organization Science 8: 681–696.
Czarniawska B, Sevón G (2005) Translation is a vehicle, imitation is its motor, and fashion sits at the wheel. In: Czarniawska B, Sevón G (eds) Global Ideas. Copenhagen: Liber & Copenhagen Business School Press, pp.7–14.
Daloz J-P (2010) The Sociology of Elite Distinction. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Duguid P (2005) ‘The art of knowing’: Social and tacit dimensions of knowledge and the limits of the community of practice. Information Society 21: 109–118.
Everard JV (2012) Only Beautiful, Please: A British Diplomat in North Korea. Stanford: Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.
Farny S, Frederiksen SH, Hannibal M, et al. (2016) A CULTure of entrepreneurship education. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development: An International Journal 28(7–8): 514–535.
Faulconbridge J (2006) Stretching tacit knowledge beyond a local fix? Global spaces of learning in advertising professional services. Journal of Economic Geography 6: 517–540.
Faulconbridge J, Hall S (2014) Reproducing the City of London’s institutional landscape: The role of education and the learning of situated practices by early career elites. Environment and Planning A 46: 1682–1698.
Frank R (2016) The 7th Party Congress in North Korea: an analysis of Kim Jong Un’s Report. The Asia-Pacific Journal 14(14): 1–22.
Geertz C (1968) Thinking as a moral act: Ethical dimensions of anthropological fieldwork in the New States. Antioch Review 28(2): 139–158.
Geertz C (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Gertler M (2003) Tacit knowledge and the economic geography of context, or the undefinable tacitness of being (there). Journal of Economic Geography 3: 75–99.
Gertler M (2010) Rules of the game: The place of institutions in regional economic change. Regional Studies 44(1): 1–15.
Gertler MS (2004) Manufacturing culture: The institutional geography of industrial practice. Oxford University Press.
Gertler M, Vinodrai T (2005) Learning from America? Knowledge flows and industrial practices of German firms in North America. Economic Geography 81: 31–52.
Grabher G, Ibert O, Flohr S (2008) The neglected king: The customer in the new knowledge ecology of innovation. Economic Geography 84(3): 253–280.
Greenwood R, Suddaby R (2006) Institutional entrepreneurship in mature fields: The Big Five accounting firms. Academy of Management Journal 49: 27–48.
Grey C (2004) Reinventing business schools: The contribution of critical management education. Academy of Management Learning and Education 3(2): 178–186.
Haggard and Noland (2009) Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform. Columbia: Columbia University Press.
Hall S (2007) Knowledge makes the money go round: conflicts of interest and corporate finance in London’s financial district. Geoforum 38(4): 710–719.
Hall S (2008) Geographies of business education: MBA programmes, reflexive business schools and the cultural circuit of capital. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 33: 27–41.
Hall S (2009) Ecologies of business education and the geographies of knowledge. Progress in Human Geography 33(5): 599–618.
Hall S and Appleyard L (2009). City of London, City of Learning? Placing business education within the geographies of finance. Journal of Economic Geography 9(5): 597–617.
Hall S, Appleyard L (2011) Commoditising learning: Cultural economy and the growth of for-profit business education service firms in London. Environment and Planning A 43: 10–27.
Hastings J (2017) A Most Enterprising Country: North Korea in the Global Economy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Hall PA, Soskice D (2001) Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hedmo T, Sahlin-Andersson K, Wedlin L (2005) Fields of imitation: The global expansion of management education. In: Czarniawska B, Sevón G (eds) Global Ideas. Copenhagen: Liber & Copenhagen Business School Press, pp.190–212.
Hollingsworth J (2000) Doing institutional analysis: Implications for the study of innovations. Review of International Political Economy 7(4): 595–644.
Holloway S, Jöns H (2012) Geographies of education and learning. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37: 482–488.
Izatt H (2010) Can North Korea Develop? Developmental dictatorship versus the China reform model. Asian Politics & Policy 2(2): 175–195.
Kibler E, Kautonen T and Fink M (2014) Regional social legitimacy of entrepreneurship: Implications for entrepreneurial intention and start-up behaviour. Regional Studies 48(6): 995–1015.
Lankov A (2013) The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lindh I, Thorgren S (2016) Entrepreneurship education: The role of local business. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development 28(5–6): 313–336. [WorldCat]
Lippi A (2000) One theory, many practices: institutional allomorphism in the managerialist reorganization of Italian governments. Scandinavian Journal of Management 16: 455–477.
Jones A and Murphy JT (2011) Theorizing practice in economic geography: Foundations, challenges, and possibilities. Progress in Human Geography 35(3): 366–392.
March JG (1999) The Pursuit of Organizational Intelligence: Decisions and Learning in Organizations. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Martin R (2010) Roepke lecture in economic geography – Rethinking regional path dependence: Beyond lock-in to evolution. Economic Geography 86: 1–27.
Maskell P, Bathelt H, Malmberg A (2006) Building global knowledge pipelines: The role of temporary clusters. European Planning Studies 14: 997–1013.
Murphy JT (2003) Social space and industrial development in East Africa: Deconstructing the logics of industry networks in Mwanza, Tanzania. Journal of Economic Geography 3(2): 173–198.
Navarini G (2001) Etnografia dei confini: Dilemma clinico e polisemia. Rassegna Italiana Di Sociologia 2: 283–308.
Nichols G, Savage M (2017) A social analysis of an elite constellation: The case of Formula 1. Theory, Culture & Society 34(5–6): 201–225.
Osterwalder A, Pigneur Y (2010) Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Peck J, Zhang J (2013) A variety of capitalism… with Chinese characteristics? Journal of Economic Geography 13(3): 357–396.
Polanyi K (1944) The Great Transformation. Boston: Becaon.
Pollard JS, McEwan C, Laurie ND, et al. (2009) Economic geography under postcolonial scrutiny. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 34: 137–142.
Ram M (2000) Hustling, hassling and making it happen: Researching consultants in a small firm context. Organization 7(4): 657–677.
Savage M, Williams K (2008) Elites: Remembered in capitalism and forgotten by social sciences. In: Savage M, Williams K (eds) Remembering Elites. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.1–24.
Scott J (2008) Modes of power and the reconceptualization of elites. In M Savage, K (eds) Williams Remembering Elites. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.27–43.
Shelton R, Lewison G (2013) Scientific collaboration as a window and a door into North Korea. Scientometrics 97: 3–11.
Smith H (2015) North Korea: Markets and Military Rule. Chichester and New York: Columbia University Press.
Stone R (2009) The force behind North Korea’s new science university. Science 325(5948): 1610–1611.
Storper M (2011) Why do regions develop and change? The challenge for geography and economics. Journal of Economic Geography 11: 333–346.
Thrift NJ and Olds K (2004). Refiguring the economic in economic geography. In Barnes T, Peck J, Sheppard E and Tickel A (eds) Reading Economic Geography. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.59–71.
Thrift N (2005) Knowing Capitalism. London: SAGE.
Tudor and Pearson (2015) North Korea Confidential. Vermont: Tuttle Publishing.
von Hippel E (2005) Democratizing Innovation. Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Wainwright T (2015) Circulating financial innovation: new knowledge and securitization in Europe. Environment and Planning A 47(8): 1643–1660.
Wang Q, Morell E (2015) Gender and entrepreneurship revisited from a community perspective: Experiences in a new immigrant gateway and beyond. Environment and Planning A 47(12): 2645–2662.
Wenger E (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wilson H (2011) Passing propinquities in the multicultural city: The everyday encounters of bus passengering. Environment and Planning A 43: 634–649.
Zald M, Lounsbury M (2010) The wizards of Oz: Towards an institutional approach to elites, expertise and command posts. Organization Studies 31: 963–996.

Cite article

Cite article

Cite article


Download to reference manager

If you have citation software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice

Share options


Share this article

Share with email
Share on social media

Share access to this article

Sharing links are not relevant where the article is open access and not available if you do not have a subscription.

For more information view the SAGE Journals article sharing page.

Information, rights and permissions


Published In

Article first published online: March 29, 2018
Issue published: August 2018


  1. Business education
  2. geographies of knowledge
  3. North Korea
  4. elites
  5. organisational learning

Rights and permissions

© The Author(s) 2018.
Request permissions for this article.


Published online: March 29, 2018
Issue published: August 2018



Thomas Wainwright
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
Ewald Kibler
Aalto University School of Business, Finland
Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä
Aalto University School of Business, Finland
Simon Down
Anglia Ruskin University, UK


Thomas Wainwright, School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. Email: [email protected]

Metrics and citations


Journals metrics

This article was published in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.


Article usage*

Total views and downloads: 667

*Article usage tracking started in December 2016


See the impact this article is making through the number of times it’s been read, and the Altmetric Score.
Learn more about the Altmetric Scores

Articles citing this one

Web of Science: 3 view articles Opens in new tab

Crossref: 3

  1. Qualitative methods II: On the presentation of ‘geographical ethnograp...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  2. Using ethnography and assemblage theory in political geography
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  3. Understanding the Barriers Faced by Older Entrepreneurs: A Case Study ...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar

Figures and tables

Figures & Media


View Options

Get access

Access options

If you have access to journal content via a personal subscription, university, library, employer or society, select from the options below:

Alternatively, view purchase options below:

Purchase 24 hour online access to view and download content.

Access journal content via a DeepDyve subscription or find out more about this option.

View options


View PDF/ePub

Full Text

View Full Text