North Korea to Hold Its Second Crypto Conference, Telegraphing Openness

As it conducts one missile test after the next, the pariah state issues a welcome to the crypto community.

AccessTimeIconSep 13, 2019 at 6:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:26 a.m. UTC

North Korea, which is believed to be using cryptocurrencies to finance weapons of mass destruction, will be holding its second cryptocurrency and blockchain conference next February.

The event follows the first conference, in April 2019, which attracted 100 people. It was declared a success by the North Koreans, and a larger second conference was promised.

The 2020 event is being sponsored by the Spanish Korean Friendship Association and organized by the North's Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. According to the conference's official website, "top ten market cap cryptocurrencies" are assisting on the technical side, though it is not clear from the announcement what that means exactly.

As was the case in the first conference, restrictions appear to be liberalized. U.S. citizens are again welcome, and digital devices can be brought in for the conference. Internet access will be available.

The conference will run from Feb. 24-25 and be held at the Pyongyang Science and Technology Complex, a bizarre atom-shaped structure opened by Kim Jong-un in 2016. On the 26th, private business meetings may be arranged.

North Korea has been accused of stealing about $2 billion worth of crypto currencies and using them to support its weapons development. South Korean and Japanese exchanges have been identified as targets, with phishing being utilized to hack into user accounts.

More generally, the borderless nature of crypto has raised concerns that the North may use coins to get around international restrictions on trade and financial exchanges.

In addition to possibly helping the North achieve crypto advances, the conference may also have propaganda value, both telegraphing a sense of openness while also sending a warning to the West.

On a less obviously sinister level, conferences are a roundabout way for North Korea to boost tourism, and the 2020 crypto event includes an extensive travel itinerary, with everything from a tour of the Tower of Juche Idea to a two-day ski trip.

Image via Shutterstock.


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