What Ever Happened to That Planned ‘Blockchain Convention’ in North Korea?

North Korea held an international conference this past April titled the “Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.” However, reports on how it went have been sparse. What ever happened to it?

You may have missed it, but North Korea held a blockchain conference this past April, which was apparently an “international success.” Announced during the summer of 2018, it was scheduled for sometime in October of that year but was later moved to April 2019. By all accounts, it actually did take place earlier this year.

According to the official North Korean event page, the event was intended as a place where attendees can “share their knowledge, establish connections, and discuss business opportunities.”

north korea blockchain

What Really Happened?

Beginning on April 18th, guests at the first-ever blockchain conference in North Korea got to enjoy a 7-day tour of the country for a sum of €3,300 ($3,700) per guest. Bear in mind, no journalists were allowed to attend—and citizens from Israel, Japan, or South Korea were banned from attending.

The main organizers of the event were two individuals: Alejandro Cao de Benós, a Spanish apologist for North Korea and President of the Korean Friendship Association, and the chief executive of TokenKey, Christopher Emms. Apparently, Kim Jong-Un and the Korean Workers’ Party “directly approved the conference.” 

In total, it was reported that some 100 participants were in attendance from all over the world. Some of the events included:

  • A multi-day tour of the Great People’s Study House, Museum of the Korean War, Pyongyang University, and various activities like skating and bowling.
  • On day five, the blockchain and crypto-conference was held at the Science and Technology Complex for two days.
  • On the seventh day, there was another meet-up at the Information Technology Company. Finally, some drinks at the Daedonggang Beer Factory. ‘Private business meetings’ also occurred on this day.

The event was such a success that a “second, much bigger conference in the near future” is planned, according to ZDNet Korea. One likely topic of discussion was how the country could leverage cryptocurrencies to circumvent the current sanctions placed on the country. As of now, North Korea has limited access to the dollar.

This is virtually all we know about how the secret blockchain conference went.

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North Korea Bets Big on Cryptocurrencies

North Korea is likely less interested in blockchain technology and more on how they can weaponize cryptocurrencies. In fact, they’ve already been doing it for years. A recent report detailed how the country’s secret elite hacking group ‘APT38’ has been responsible for stealing $2B in cryptocurrency thefts since 2015 alone. The state is accused of hacking major exchanges like South Korea’s Bithumb and Japan’s Coincheck, funded by the country’s leading cyber-warfare agency Bureau 121. There are also reports that North Korea has multiple crypto-mining operations and are using blockchain to avoid US sanctions

So, as it turns out, North Korea did hold a successful blockchain conference this year—and given that the economy is still in a chokehold, we can likely expect another one sometime soon. For North Korea, cryptocurrencies may provide its economy with some much-needed capital and breathing space.

Does North Korea have any actual interest in developing blockchain technology, or is this all a publicity stunt? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below. 

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