Born and raised in South Korea, she came to the United States as a student, climbing to the top of corporate America as a senior executive in the finance industry, now living in Minnesota. Jinny Choi spoke to Liz Collin on her latest podcast to mark 70 years since the separation of North and South Korea. It’s a subject she knows well, and she hopes it serves as a strong warning against socialism.
Choi came to the United States as a sophomore in high school, went on to receive a college education in this country and started working in finance where she now works as a senior executive with 25 years of experience.
“I worked at Morgan Stanley, UBS Wealth Management, General Electric, Bridgewater Associated Hedge Fund and now I am a COO for a fundraising company headquartered in San Francisco and co-founder of a management business in Korea,” she explained.
She said she only recently started speaking out about a “tale of two countries,” as Choi calls it.
“I started hearing about people wanting socialism in America. At first, I thought it wasn’t that many people and I thought they’ll come to their senses after they looked into more history about socialism and what happened. Obviously, that was my naive-ness,” she said.
“Especially young people talking about socialism like it’s this utopia,” Choi added. “As a person who grew up in South Korea, I know very well what happens at the end of this wonderful idea. I thought I should speak up and the more I spoke up, I then realized people really didn’t know how North Korea started and how North Korea became the current North Korea.”
Choi explained how it pains her as a South Korean to see and hear how the people in North Korea are suffering.
“Yet, we are talking about socialism in America, and I love America. I lived here the majority of my life, and the U.S. has been great to me. I am living the American dream. Given that, I thought it’s my duty to speak up and help people to realize what socialism is really all about to stop America from going down that path,” she said.
A recent report found that the Democratic Socialists of America are gaining influence in cities throughout the country, particularly in Minneapolis.
Seventy years ago in the year of 1953, Choi explained how North and South Korea were essentially the same.
“Korea has a 5,000-year history together. We share the same language, same culture, same history, same DNA,” Choi said.
She said the only thing that changed was an ideology.
“70 years ago, South Korea went with the U.S. and Western European countries. We went to capitalism and North Korea went to socialism along with Russia and China. At that time, everybody in North Korea believed that socialism is this great utopia where everybody shares everything together, all the wealth is together. Nobody is rich, nobody is poor. Everybody will be taken care of, free housing, free education, free health care. That’s what they believed,” she said.
Choi says the problem is that in socialism the government has to take “all of your assets, all of your belongings,” and that’s “where the violence starts happening,” Choi pointed out.
“Not only the violence of killing your own citizens to take their assets and belongings, they started having public killings to create this fear in people,” she said.
“Look at North Korea. Now it’s under one dictatorship. That’s what happens with just about every place that’s tried socialism in the past. In the end, they become this totalitarian dictatorship, and they never get to the socialism that they actually talked about,” Choi said.
During the conversation, Choi also discussed the stark differences in everything from the economy and GDP to longevity and even internet usage.
“When North Korea and South Korea split 70 years ago, North Korea was twice as rich as South Korea. Obviously, we were both very poor, but still North Korea was twice as rich as South Korea. Now, South Korea’s GDP per capita is $34,000 as of 2020. That is 57 times more than North Korea. Simple as that. In 70 years, we became that different,” she said.
“South Korean people are expected to live to 82 years old. North Korea, the life expectancy is only 70,” she added.
When it comes to cellphones, Choi said the difference is also obvious.
“In North Korea, none of them have internet capabilities. Every electronic, phones or laptop that they produce, it only has intranet capabilities, which North Korea dictates and controls. The North Korean people cannot connect to Google or any of the websites, and they can only read their propaganda made by North Koreans in books and everything. So, they really have no idea what’s going on,” Choi said.
Choi believes there are many similarities with the “culture war” she sees happening in the United States today.
“The North Korean party and socialism decides what’s right and what’s wrong. A person no longer decides what’s right and wrong, but it’s a government and the system that tells you what’s right and wrong,” Choi explained.
“They’re very good at coming up with new vocabularies for people to speak. And people have to speak those words to show their loyalty,” she added. “That’s also what’s happening in the United States.”
Choi encouraged people to get involved.
“A lot of people, including me, we all think that if we stay silent on any topic around the table, we think we’re just not active in that discussion, we’re not for, not against. But the truth is that everyone on that table takes silence as acceptance and I condone that view. I think that’s why I started speaking up, and choosing not to participate in conversations is really, in a sense, complicit in the act,” Choi said.