About the Author
View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
A delegation of top North Korean officials led by Ri Su Yong toured a tech park for a Vietnamese military-run telecom company in addition to other economic sites Thursday, according to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) and other local media.
In a visit which took place on the sidelines of the second U.S.-DPRK summit in Hanoi, the delegation visited a civil equipment research and production facility run by the Viettel Group – which in January changed its name to the Viettel Military Industry and Telecoms Group – and held political meetings with local provincial officials.
The North Korean officials on Thursday also toured a production plant for the An Phat Plastic company, a local cooperative, and the Vietnam Agriculture Science Institute.
Ri, who serves as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), toured the sites with the same top officials who the previous day visited a modern car manufacturing plant owned by the Vingroup.
On Thursday at the facilities of Viettel, the North Koreans were introduced to technology produced by the telecom giant such as 4G network systems as well as “equipment and solutions for fishermen,” according to VnExpress.
These included communication and identification devices, AIS tracking systems, personal rescue equipment, and disaster warning system, the report said.
Production of such modern fishing equipment is frequently featured in North Korean state media as a success of the DPRK’s so-called self-reliant economy.
Ri also expressed interest in further cooperation with the state-owned, military-run telecom company, according to the report, adding North Korea was “very interested in telecommunications and smart products.”
“Hopefully, after this visit, there will be other opportunities to exchange and cooperate in these fields with Viettel,” Ri reportedly said.
After holding a meeting with officials from the Hai Duong Provincial Party Committee, the North Koreans also on Thursday toured a production plant of An Phat Plastic – a company which primarily produces a range of thin plastic bags and compostable bags.
There, the delegation toured “modern packaging production lines” and “learned about the experience of economic development, especially the private economic model” of the company in Vietnam, according to a report published by parent company An Phat Holdings.
Ri and other North Korean officials reportedly expressed interest in several of parent company An Phat Holdings’ current projects, including a large high-tech industrial park and a polyester fiber plant, according to a report on the visit in Tuoi Tre, one of the country’s leading newspapers.
Also on Thursday, the delegation toured the Vietnam Agriculture Science Institute in Hanoi.
The institute’s Director Nguyen Hong Son said the visit was “a good chance for the two sides to share information and enhance co-operation on science and technology in agriculture, towards promoting friendship in scientific research and economic development,” according to the country’s state-run English daily Viet Nam News.
The North Korean delegation leader Ri, in turn, “expressed interest in Viet Nam’s farming techniques in the cultivation of crops such as rice, corn and potatoes,” the report said.
Ri reportedly added that he hoped Vietnam would “further support his country in developing high-yielding rice varieties.”
The country’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh, joining the delegation for the tour, responded that he “looks forward to welcoming more DPRK scientists to Viet Nam for research.”
Just weeks before the U.S.-DPRK summit, which occurred while Ri and his delegation were touring economic sites on February 27-28, Vietnamese foreign minister Pham Binh Minh also expressed his country’s willingness to assist with North Korea’s development.
Speaking in Pyongyang during an official visit, Pham said Vietnam wished to “share its experience in national construction, socio-economic development and international integration with the DPRK.”
In addition, the delegation toured the Dan Hoai Cooperative on Thursday, where they “visited three flower houses which produce seedlings, finished products, and commercial plants,” according to a VNA report.
Ri Su Yong reportedly said he was “very interested and appreciated” the cooperative’s high-tech orchid cultivation methods as well as the “export value of the flower.”
Thursday’s series of economic site visits followed a tour of facilities of the Vingroup the previous day, which included the VinFast automobile manufacturing plant, the VinEco high-tech agricultural production zone, and the Vinpearl Hotel Zone, according to an official report from the Hai Phong local government.
Speaking to local officials, Ri reportedly highlighted North Korea’s “focus on economic development … [and] strengthening solidarity between the Party and the people,” and complimented Vietnam for their focus on sci-tech development.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Viettel