Over 450 foreign and domestic companies are taking part in this week’s 22nd Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair, North Korean state media reported Monday, an over 50% increase compared to last year’s event and figures which could make it the largest such event on record.
Firms from the DPRK, China, Russia, Pakistan, Poland, and other countries are participating, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, in an article marking the beginning of the twice-yearly fair on Monday.
With foreign and domestic companies selling wares related to “metal, electronics, machinery, building materials, transport, public health, light industry and food and consumer goods industry,” the KCNA said, the fair is set to last until Friday.
It also shows a marked increase in the number of companies participating when compared to the 260 in 2018, 230 in 2017, and 220 in 2016, and the highest ever-recorded participation in the biannual event.
Last year’s 14th annual Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair appeared to have broken previously-set records, with state media reporting at the time that over 320 companies had taken part.
And while the state media did not reveal precisely how many foreign and domestic companies took part, the North Korean reporting comes on the heels of coverage on the fair’s opening yesterday by NK News sister site NK Pro, in which a brochure distributed to guests at the event revealed over 216 Chinese companies to be taking part.
That brochure was notable for excluding joint ventures (J/Vs), banned since early 2018 under UN Security Council sanctions and long a mainstay of the annual trade fairs.
Footage of the event shared elsewhere, however, revealed that several J/Vs continue to participate: a video by Prensa Latina Pyongyang correspondent Benito Joaquín Milanes, for one, showed Chonsuryong Tech JV Co, selling neon signs for prominent companies and restaurants.
Photos uploaded by the Russian embassy in the DPRK, too, showed a number of J/Vs present.
State TV coverage of the event has so far, however, largely focused on Korean firms present at the event, which were presented selling everything from health products to electronics.
The opening ceremony on Monday was attended by, among others, O Ryong Chol, the country’s vice-minister of External Economic Relations.
“His presence at the fair shows how seriously the event is being taken,” said Peter Ward, a contributing analyst on the North Korean economy for NK Pro.
“The large increase in size documented elsewhere on NK News further unscores this fact,” he continued. “The North Korean government is interested in promoting trade and investment, as it has been for some time, but seems to be pushing more resources and energy into such efforts.”
But while touted as a business opportunity, some companies appearing at various trade fairs occurring in North Korea every year have proven to be either sanctioned or involved in sanctioned activities.
Last year’s fair, for example, featured Chinese-made trucks for sale — a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2397.
Edited by Chad O’Carroll
Featured image: Russian embassy DPRK