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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Despite a downturn in bilateral trade in recent years due to international sanctions, Chinese companies have continued to appear at various new and existing trade exhibitions in North Korea this year, including two that started on Monday.
The two running this week are the 2nd annual Pyongyang International Exhibition of Green Building Materials and Furniture, and the 3rd annual but newly-named DPRK-China Sci-Tech Exhibition in the Health and Sports Field.
The green materials event sees the participation of “over 50 companies of different countries including the DPRK and China,” Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Monday.
It is being held at the Central Youth Hall, hosted by the DPRK Ministry of External Economic Relations (MEER) and the Korean International Exhibition Corporation, while Chinese company participation appears to be led by the Dandong-based Yanghan Convention and Exhibition Service Co., Ltd. (YHCES).
Items on display at the event from North Korean companies included televisions branded by the Sinhung IT Technology Trading Co., furniture by the Yehung Joint Venture Corp., home aquariums by the Korea Elderly Care Fund, and “ionized water machines” by the South Hamgyong People’s Hospital.
Those from Chinese companies include smart door lock systems from the Danmini brand, finishing materials from the Shenyang Anjiuzhou Decoration Materials Co., lighting fixtures from the Shenyang Shenhe Dazhui Lighting Electrical Appliance Firm, and other products such as window frames and home appliances from unidentified companies.
Also seen in the limited available imagery so far were engine belts produced by the Italian company SIT.
MEER head Kim Yong Jae was shown touring the exhibition in KCNA coverage of the opening ceremony Monday, alongside YHCES representative Lin Boxun.
YHCES also handled Chinese company participation for the first-ever Chongjin Autumn International Trade Fair held in the east-coast North Korean city earlier this month.
Across town at the Sci-Tech Complex, the DPRK-China Sci-Tech Exhibition in Health and Sports Field also kicked off Monday, hosted by the State Commission of Science and Technology.
KCNA reported that the event involves the participation of “more than 70 organisations of the DPRK and China,” showing off “health products, measuring instruments, sports goods and apparatuses and software.”
In speeches before the event began, organizers said it “would be an occasion conducive to exchanging successes and experience achieved by the two countries in scientific and technological development of health and sports field and strengthening exchange and cooperation among the research units,” the report added.
The China-based Joy Space International Exhibitions appears to have managed Chinese company participation in this event, having previously worked on the Pyongyang International Sci-Tech Exhibition for Health & Medical Appliances in June and others under the “Sci-Tech Exhibition” banner at the same venue.
Last year’s version of the event being held this week was named the “Pyongyang Int’l Sci-Tech Exhibition: Health and Physical Culture,” with a page on the Joy Space website saying “over 100 companies” from the DPRK, China, Russia, Malaysia, and others participated.
At the event this week, many North Korean companies were seen in state media images showing off pharmaceutical products, such as the Korea Mandok Trading Corp., the Korea Yua Trading Corp., and the Ryonghung Pharmaceutical Factory.
Chinese companies were seen in the limited available imagery showing off large electric massage chairs, orthopedic insoles, electric bicycles, and other products, while companies from other countries have yet to be identified.
The changing of the event’s name to explicitly include China follows the holding of the first-ever International High-Tech Product Trade Fair in Pyongyang last month with exclusive Chinese and North Korean company participation.
The International Foodstuff Sci-Tech Exchange Meeting held in a basketball arena in Pyongyang earlier this month also appeared to be held primarily with Chinese participation in mind, as company booth signs were written in Korean and Chinese, as opposed to the more standard Korean and English seen at other trade fairs and similar events.
Edited by James Fretwell
Featured image: KCNA