In a first for the reclusive nation, North Korea will open its doors to international industry experts for a blockchain and crypto-currency conference it plans to hold next year.
The Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference will take place from April 18 to 25, 2019, and attendees will also be treated to a seven-day tour of the country, according to the UK’s Independent. Radio Free Asia also reported via the Straits Times that a previous conference had been held in October, but received very little media coverage.
It appears as though leaders are combining tech with tourism as the last day of the ‘tour’ will be devoted to visiting a beer factory. For the 3,300 Euro (US$3,750) ticket price, delegates will receive an all-inclusive stay in the country and be treated to a number of activities including a skate park, bowling, shooting and shopping.
A promotional website for the event adds “International experts in the blockchain and crypto industry will gather for the first time in Pyongyang to share their knowledge and vision, establish connections and discuss business opportunities,” adding reassurance on safety concerns. “The DPRK can be considered the safest country in the world. As long as you have a basic common-sense and respect for the culture and belief of other nations, you’ll be always welcome.”
The invite is not open to everyone, however. Passport holders from Japan, South Korea and Israel are barred from attendance. Journalists are also barred and the website goes on to warn against bringing any contraband which includes printed media.
“Any mass printed propaganda or digital/printed material against the dignity of the Republic is not allowed.”
The listed organizers are Alejandro Cao de Benos, a “Special Delegate for the Committee for Cultural Relations and President of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA),” and Chris Emms, a “Blockchain and Crypto expert.”
North Korea and crypto-currency have made headlines in recent months, but for the wrong reasons. A cybersecurity firm recently discovered malware that mines Monero, a privacy-focused digital currency, sending the ill-gotten gains to a server at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. Earlier this year Bloomberg reported that North Korean hackers were targeting machines in the south to generate crypto-currency revenue for the regime.
The DPRK has good reason to show a close interest in digital currencies, as sanctions tighten it may need to follow Iran’s lead in switching to them for its financial transactions.