Crypto Stories: Ethan Lou shares experience of crypto conference in North Korea

When North Korea announced a crypto conference back in 2018, Canadian journalist Ethan Lou jumped at the opportunity to see what the country’s crypto scene looked like. He encountered many surprises, including being introduced as a presenter to a North Korean audience. 

According to Lou, he went there with eight other unsuspecting participants who wanted to simply attend the crypto conference. However, when the plane landed and the conference started, they realized that they were being announced to the audience as foreign experts who flew all the way to North Korea to teach them about crypto.

While Lou did not agree to present, he said that most of the others decided to give improvised talks. However, the Canadian journalist felt that there was no significant exchange of information within the conference:

“There were only eight of us, but there were like maybe 60 Korean people. They were basically the audience and we did not get any meaningful interaction with them.”

Among the other things that started the group is how one of them got his laptop confiscated because it had pictures of his girlfriend. The North Koreans classified the pictures as pornography and held on to the laptop until they departed.

The foreign crypto “experts” also encountered some of the expected security measures. One had his laptop confiscated because it had pictures of his girlfriend. The North Koreans classified the pictures as pornography and held on to the laptop until they departed.

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Lou also met Virgil Griffith, the only person who was an actual presenter for the event. Griffith explained how Americans need permission from their government when going to North Korea. “Before Virgil went on this trip, he asked his government whether he could go. The government told him no. He told us he decided to go anyway,” Lou mentioned.

While Griffith believed that he was doing his country a favor, he eventually got arrested and met with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This led to a trial where Griffith pled guilty and was given six and a half years in prison.

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