In 2018, North Korea announced a crypto conference, and Canadian journalist Ethan Lou was readily engaged in checking out what the country’s crypto scene looked like. To his surprise, he was also introduced as a presenter to the North Korean audiences.
According to Ethan, there were eight unsuspecting attendees. When the plane landed and entered the conference, it was advertised to people as foreign experts who had traveled to North Korea to teach them cryptography.
Although Ethan didn’t agree to present, most of the other people gave some improtm[ptu talks and felt that there was no meaningful exchange of information within the conference. This was quite surprising as there were more than 60 Koreans and eight presenters. There was hardly any meaningful interaction and communication between both parties.
The foreign crypto experts also encountered some important expected security measures as one of them had their laptop confiscated, and since it contained photographs of his girlfriend, the north Koreans classified it as pornography and kept the laptop until they left.
Ethan also met Virgil Griffith, the actual presenter of the event, as he explained how Americans need permission from their government just to travel to North Korea. Even though he didn’t get approval yet, he decided to go anyway.
While Griffith believed that he was doing a service for his country, he was eventually arrested and met with the good old Federal Bureau of Investigation, leading to a continuous trial where Griffith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six and a half years of prison.