Some 100 people were reported to have planned on attending the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, held 22-23 April in the North Korean capital, according to a report by Radio Free Asia (RFA).
The RFA said it was the first such international conference on blockchain and cryptocurrencies to be held there. Another larger conference is being planned for later this spring or summer, it added.
Originally scheduled for last September, the April conference was organised with the help of the Korean Friendship Association, a Spain-based group that promotes North Korea to a global audience.
The RFA quoted a representative of North Korea Tech at the North Korea Information and Communication Centre, who said: “Perhaps this event is held to expand understanding of the blockchain. Or it could be a kind of promotional activity for North Korean blockchain technology.”
The news outlet added that leader Kim Jong-un is promoting software development as a way to boost the country’s “backward economy and lagging information and communication technology”.
A report on 20 April in ZDNet Korea noted the Pyongyang event was open to anyone but journalists or citizens of Korea, Japan and Israel.
Citing an unidentified source, BusinessKorea reported on 22 April that the event was likely intended as a message to the international community.
“Once North Korea conducts international trade by using cryptocurrencies, US economic sanctions on North Korea cannot but lose their effects and it will become increasingly hard for the United States to control the North,” the source said. “The event is to show that it will use cryptocurrencies if the United States does not move forward in bilateral negotiations and excludes the North from the dollar economy.”
Another expert told BusinessKorea: “North Korea has already developed its hacking and blockchain technologies to a large extent. It is likely to make use of blockchain technology to counter the sanctions and obtain more cash.”