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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
The North Korean capital will next April host an international Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, the pro-DPRK Korean Friendship Association (KFA) claimed this week.
In a post on its website, the KFA says “international experts” on blockchain and cryptocurrency will spend two days at Pyongyang’s Science and Technology Complex to “share their knowledge and vision, establish connections and discuss business opportunities.”
The tour will last from April 18-25, it continues.
For the cost of 3300 euros per person, visitors can attend the conference and visit sites in Pyongyang, Panmunjom, and Kaesong – including the recently-established inter-Korean liaison office.
They will also be able to participate in a “DPRK general business presentation and private business meetings with interested counterparts.”
And while South Korean, Japanese, and Israeli citizens are said to be barred from attending the event, U.S. citizens are “welcome to apply.”
The U.S. State Department, however, does have the power to grant waivers to this policy for journalists, humanitarian aid workers, and those otherwise working in the “national interest.”
North Korea in response to the ban last year said it would “leave our door wide open to any U.S. citizen who would like to visit.”
Speaking to NK News, a State Department official on Wednesday declined to comment on whether any such waivers would be granted for next year’s conference, instead reiterating that the travel ban remains in place.
“The safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is one of our highest priorities,” a statement read. “The Travel Advisory for North Korea remains in place – the Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea.”
The KFA previously announced that a similar event, called the “Korean International Blockchain Conference,” would take place in Pyongyang from September 27 to October 4.
The event did not ultimately go ahead, however.
While the KFA’s Alejandro Cao de Benós is organizing the conference, those interested in speaking are asked to contact Christopher Emms, a self-described “Blockchain Expert” based in Andorra.
A source familiar with the first planned event told NK News that Emms originally reached out to KFA to help bring the conference to North Korea, following his experience speaking at similar events in other countries in recent years.
Emms’ Linkedin profile lists him as an adviser to multiple blockchain and cryptocurrency companies, as well to the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blockchain.
He has been active in the Malta blockchain community, and his profile attached to speaking gigs at various blockchain events describes him as having been involved in “driving forward cryptocurrency debit cards” with a Gibraltar-based company.
Emms was also listed as a co-organizer for September’s later-cancelled event, with a promotion by the KFA Travel web portal describing him as a “serial entrepreneur with extensive experience working with Startups and Venture.”
“Christopher advises businesses on Blockchain eco-systems, regulatory requirements and payments solutions,” it added.
The price for that nine-day tour was listed at 3200 euros, and also included a two-day conference and day dedicated to “business meetings with Korean companies.”
Neither Emms nor the KFA responded to requests for comment.
The planned conference will not be North Korea’s first foray into cryptocurrency: students from the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) were offered a lecture series on blockchain and Bitcoin last year.
Led by Italian bitcoin entrepreneur Federico Tenga, the course focused on learning the technology and “how censorship-resistance is achieved,” and was sometimes attended by professors from other universities in Pyongyang, Tenga told NK News last November.
Representatives of PUST had by the time of publication not responded to an NK News inquiry on their potential involvement in next year’s conference.
North Korea has also been linked to blockchain and cryptocurrency in reports concerning the country’s purported use of hacking to generate funds.
A report by cybersecurity firm Group-IB as recently as last month alleged that a group of purportedly DPRK-linked hackers known as “Lazarus” had stolen over half a billion dollars worth of cryptocurrency since January last year.
Featured image: Explore DPRK