In recent years, North Korea has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. From doing tests on nuclear weapons to the government sponsoring hackers, the land of morning calm has them all. The nation has been subject to UN’s sanctions since 2006 as a result of its active nuclear and ballistic missile programs. These sanctions among other barriers force nations to avoid “financial transactions, technical training, advice, services or assistance,” in the instance that it could aid in the flourishing of the missile programs or help North Korea dodge sanctions.
Recently, the country announced it will host a cryptocurrency and blockchain conference in February and everyone is invited. In any case, sanction experts at the United Nations have forewarned anybody considering attending the conference to forget about it.
The UN has flagged the February conference as a potential sanctions violation according to a report by Reuters. Moreover, the sanction experts have laid down their advice in a confidential report to be tendered to the United Nations Security Council later this month. The UN has been closely monitoring the Asian state and its utility of blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Back in November 2019, the UN claimed that North Korea had been involved in money laundering activity through a shell firm posing as a “shipping and logistics firm run on a blockchain platform.” In addition, the UN has also been watching the nation’s crypto-focused hacking stunts. It claims that the exploits made the country more than $2 billion. However, North Korea denied the claims.
American Ethereum Developer Arrested for Travelling to N. Korea to Discuss Crypto
The warning against attending the conference in North Korea doesn’t come as a surprise given the recent arrest of American ethereum developer Virgil Griffith. Griffith was indicted by the authorities for allegedly conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The Ethereum Foundation researcher traveled to North Korea for its first blockchain and cryptocurrency conference back in April 2019. While there, Griffith and other conference attendees supposedly discussed cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies. The United States government asserts that Griffith’s presence could have assisted North Korea to circumnavigate international sanctions. In addition, the prosecutors in Griffith’s case claims that he had been persuading other United States citizens to take part in the conference.
According to the conference’s website, all are invited except citizens of South Korea, Japan, and Israel. In addition, it claims that the visitor’s passports will not be stamped:
“We will provide a paper visa separated from your passport, so there will be no evidence of your entry to the country. Your participation will never be disclosed from our side unless you publicize it on your own.”
Korea’s Mystery Conference
Moving forward, North Korea first declared it would be hosting a blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in August 2018. The event was planned to take place two months later and the last two days. However, very minimal information was shared. It was claimed that the conference would conclude with a meet and greet between North Korea’s industry leaders and experts.
However, a report emerged that the conference was later postponed. Up to this point, it is not known if the event took place at all.
A year later, news emerged that the Asian nation was planning to develop its own digital currency in order to evade the strict international sanctions. The evidence of this was scanty. Whatever North Korea is trying to achieve with cryptocurrency and blockchain, I don’t believe we need experts to warn us against it.