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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
A new trade exhibition featuring Chinese “high-tech” products and other industrial and consumer goods kicked off in Pyongyang on Monday, North Korean state media reported.
The International High-Tech Product Trade Fair was reported in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday to be a significant event for DPRK-China relations.
KCNA said the event, which overlaps with a visit to the DPRK by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi this week, would contribute to “strengthening the economic cooperation and exchange and expediting trade activities between the two countries.”
It “opened in the significant year marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the DPRK and China,” the report said.
“On display at the trade fair are artificial intelligence products, electronic goods, building materials, light industrial products, household goods, and others,” it continued.
The fair is being held at the Pyongyang International Cinema House on Yanggak island, where DPRK officials including chairman of the State Commission of Science and Technology Ri Chung Gil and vice-minister of Construction and Building-Materials Industry Ri Myong Hwan attended the opening.
Images of the fair carried by KCNA and accounts operating under the Pyongyang-based Sogwang outlet showed a range of goods including virtual reality (VR) motion simulator chairs, a large agriculture-use drone, and luxury hotel equipment and furniture.
A range of consumer goods were also on display, including mid-range wristwatches, kitchen and household appliances, baby strollers, eyeglasses, toys, and sports equipment.
The fair appears to have been organized by the Shenzhen Enterprise Confederation, according to signs bearing its name and the event title in Chinese and Korean greeting guests as they enter the venue.
As such, only Chinese companies appeared displaying products and advertisements in the available imagery, with many identified as hailing from southern China’s Shenzhen and Guangdong Province.
Spotted on display was a large unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone with a tag written in Korean stating it is for “agricultural use” — found to be the “agricultural plant protection drone FXD1-10″ made by FXD Guangdong Fexda.
VR motion simulator chairs appearing to be the same as those made by the Linehand brand under Guang Zhou Wang Dong Electronics Technology Co. Ltd were being demonstrated at the fair in Pyongyang as well.
An identical model is being sold by the company on China’s Alibaba online shop for around 655,000 RMB ($91,000 USD), and boasts of using components such as Japanese Koyo-brand bearings, Amercan Kingston-brand memory and Gates-brand belts, and Taiwanese Gigabyte-brand motherboards.
Also present were mid-range wristwatches from the Chinese brand Flanko on display at the high-tech fair, a company which states on its website that it entered the Chinese market in 2010 and has established over 1000 sales outlets.
But the company also says it is based in Seattle in an active Kickstarter page, with CEO and founder Jun Chen explaining in a video posted to a company English-language Youtube page that its watches are designed out of the northwest U.S. city.
In addition, a small 3D printer was on display at the Pyongyang fair made by the Shenzhen Weistek Co., while various hotel buffet display and kitchen goods were presented under a banner for the Shenzhen Vibolong Hospitality Equipment & Supplies Co.
Kitchen appliances from Chinese brands such as Midea — also seen on display at the newly-remodeled Daesong Department store — and Konka were shown off at a booth for the Shenzhen Yiqun Electric Appliance Company’s online shop.
The import of many of these items could constitute violations of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on machinery, metals, electronics, luxury goods, and other measures if found to have been shipped into North Korea for the fair.
Such displays have become a regular occurrence in the face of sanctions, however, with Chinese and other foreign brands found to be importing and displaying sanctioned goods on a regular basis at the major twice-annual international trade fairs in Pyongyang and other shops and events.
Dozens of Chinese participants appear to have traveled to North Korea for the first-ever event of its kind this week, with KCNA showing a large group of Chinese visitors laying flowers at the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on Saturday.
KCNA reported that “Chinese guests” arrived in Pyongyang last Friday specifically to participate in the fair. The event is set to run through Friday.
Meanwhile, the 15th Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair is set to be held later this month at the Three-Revolution Exhibition House, running from September 23-27.
The website of North Korea’s state-run Korea International Travel Company (KITC) also recently announced that the Pyongyang International Green Building Materials and Furniture Exhibition will return for its second year, to be held at the same venue from October 28-31.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA