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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korea is planning to hold at least ten international trade exhibitions in the coming year starting in April, according to a government-affiliated website and Chinese exhibition partners, pending changes in a continued partial closure of the country’s borders amid fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The first of these events is planned to take place from April 20-24 in Chongjin, for the second such international trade fair in the east-coast city and the first in the spring, following last October’s inaugural event.
The information was released by an organizing partner based in Dandong, China — the Yanghan Convention and Exhibition Service Co., Ltd. (YHCES) — and confirmed by others such as tour company Young Pioneer Tours.
The Trade of DPR Korea website — known to be operated by North Korea’s Ministry of External Economic Relations — this week confirmed plans for five other international trade fairs this year, while another Chinese partner has shared details of four smaller events.
Other returning events or new events first held in 2019 may also be held this year, likely with heavy participation by Chinese firms.
But all eyes will be on the annual Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair scheduled for May 25-29, the largest North Korean trade fair attracting the most exhibitors next to the annual Autumn sister event set for September.
Other events confirmed by the North Korean website are the Pyongyang International Light Industry Exhibition in July, the Pyongyang International Green Building Materials and Furniture Exhibition the following month, and the Pyongyang International Agriculture and Foodstuff Industry Exhibition in November.
Shipping of supplies for exhibit booths will be organized in collaboration with a number of foreign partners, including the Italian firm OTIM, and Chinese firms such as the Jilin Provincial Dragon Lin Import & Export Co., Ltd., according to the DPRK site.
Additional fairs announced by another Chinese partner, Joy Space International Exhibitions, include the Pyongyang International Science and Technology Expo and other, specific sci-tech expos on health and medical equipment, food and beverage industries, and textile and apparel industries.
North Korea’s international trade fairs take place annually, often offering a rare opportunity for foreign businesses to get some insights into the DPRK’s investment climate.
Last year’s spring trade fair was dominated by Chinese firms, with brochures revealing at least 216 PRC firms participating.
Booths operated by overseas companies and embassies at the trade fair – according to a count based on initial photos seen by NK News‘s sister site NK Pro – included those from Australia, China, Cuba, Indonesia, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Syria, and Thailand.
But confirmation of this year’s plans comes amid a continued lockdown of travel into and out of the DPRK, amid fears in Pyongyang that the novel coronavirus could spread within its territory.
North Korea has in recent weeks banned all international tourism into the country, as well as put air and train travel between China and the DPRK on hold.