The 14th annual Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair opened on Monday and included over 320 participating companies, according to a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report and NK News comparisons to previous years’ reporting.
As President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un drove past the Three-Revolution Exhibition House where the trade fair was taking place Tuesday morning, inside were companies from a variety of foreign countries – including some which were showing off goods prohibited for trade under international sanctions.
Videos and images posted in domestic and foreign outlets on Tuesday confirmed the participation of overseas companies from at least four countries – Russia, New Zealand, Australia, and China – with official text state media hinting at several other countries representing there too.
A KCNA article announcing the fair on September 12 stated that “more than 320 companies” from the DPRK, China, Cuba, Italy, Australia, and other countries would be joining the twice-yearly trade fair – possibly making it the largest such event on record since 2007 by North Korea’s official numbers.
But a record high number could not be confirmed by NK News on state media reporting alone, since many companies present at previous trade fairs have been excluded from official counts.
The event was described as being part of the country’s push to “achieve common economic development and prosperity,” the KCNA said on Monday.
And in opening remarks, North Korean officials “expressed the will to boost the external economic relations with various countries in the world on a new higher level on the principle of respect for sovereignty, equality and mutual benefit in the future.”
Vice-premier of the DPRK Cabinet Ri Ryong Nam – who was scheduled to meet with South Korean business leaders in Pyongyang on Tuesday as part of an ongoing summit delegation – led the opening event.
Also in attendance was Minister of External Economic Relations Kim Yong Jae, who attended last week’s Eastern Economic Forum in Russia and met there with region officials.
But as North Korea promotes the expansion of international trade amid a year of easing tensions with the world, the country is still technically prohibited under UN sanctions from trading in foodstuffs, textiles, machinery, and several other items on display at the fair.
And while some of the most prevalent items being promoted by North Korean companies in media coverage seen by NK News were non-sanctioned categories such as cosmetics and health products, one such vendor – the Kuryonggang Trading Co. – has been sanctioned by the U.S. for ties to the North’s nuclear program.
Meanwhile, one DPRK company was seen advertising large flat-screen TVs “thinner than the width of your finger,” while the Taehung Fur Trading Co. displayed fur coats and fur-lined boots at a booth featuring a cartoon image of a deer.
The Automobile Trading Company – known as a North Korean vehicle and parts importer – was also seen displaying various motor vehicles outdoors at the fair, which depending on importation date, could also violate UN sanctions.
The company could be seen in pictures posted by the Russian Embassy of the DPRK showing off a brand new flatbed truck, passenger and motorbike version three-wheeled transport trailers, and a farming tractor – some appearing similar to Chinese models.
A Chinese businessman identified as Benjamin Kui, interviewed on South Korean television station YTN on Tuesday, said he thought “maybe two times, or triple” the number of Chinese companies were participating this year compared to the previous two years.
Addressing sanctions concerns, Kui said that items which “belong to the sanctions list are not allowed to come here, so we only bring those products who are allowed.”
The fair is scheduled to continue through September 21.
Featured image: KCNA
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