North Korea plans technology fair in September

Foreign companies anxious to grab a slice of North Korea’s potentially large infrastructure market will be in Pyongyang, the capital of the reclusive east Asian nation, in mid-September for a first-of-its-kind trade exhibition.

The Pyongyang International Technology and Infrastructure Exhibition will take place from Sept. 17 to 20 and has already attracted the attention of over 50 companies and trade commissions that have booked space at the show.

“We planned this on the basis that we think the country is opening up and will need first infrastructure development,” said Marilyn Au, project director at co-organizers Munich International Trade Fairs Pte. Ltd. in Singapore. The company, a regional affiliate of Germany’s Messe Munchen International, is organizing the show with Pyongyang’s Korea International Exhibition Corp. “The focus will be on general technology and technology for light industries,” she said.

North Korea’s infrastructure is in great need of modernization. Outside of Pyongyang, many roads are crumbling, power failures are common, factories manage with decades-old machinery and some telecommunication infrastructure needs upgrading. A recent report by Seoul’s Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency said North Korea needs to spend at least US$1 billion over each of the next five years just to keep infrastructure at its present level.

Among companies taking part, Germany’s Siemens AG will be showing its full range of telecommunication and electronics products, said Au. Other major European companies scheduled to attend include ABB Ltd., Werke GmbH & Co., Iveco SpA, Robert Bosch GmbH and Scania CV AB. The European Union Chamber of Commerce, Italian Trade Commission, German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and Austrian Embassy in Beijing also plan to be at the fair, according to the latest list of exhibitors.

Missing are any companies from outside Europe. South Korean and U.S. are not eligible to attend at present and the organizers have failed to attract any companies from nearby Japan or China, said Au.

Attendance at the show is expected to be good, she said.

“The Korean side has indicated 10,000 or 20,000 but we cannot be affirmative because this is a first-time show,” said Au. “From the highest levels, (the North Koreans) have distributed information to the departments and to industry to come to this show.”

Planning for the exhibition, which MMI hopes it will be able to hold every year, started in early 2001. Three months later in May 2001, Otto Wiesheu, minister of economy, transport and technology for the German state of Bavaria led a trade delegation to Pyongyang and signed a bilateral cooperation accord between North Korea and Bavaria in the fields of economy and science and technology.