Founder of Bitcoin startup Chainside, Federico Tenga from Italy traveled to Pyongyang in November to teach elite students about Bitcoin and related blockchain technology . At the only foreign funded North Korea’s Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.
This happened after he contacted the school to talk about Bitcoin at a finance conference organized there. But the university cancelled the conference. Since President Donald Trump banned U.S. citizens from traveling to North Korea. Instead, the school invited him to teach about Bitcoin.
He told Vice News that the although the students he taught knew what was happening outside North Korea. And had heard about Bitcoin, they did know Bitcoin mining and trade. He said they learned fast. He gave five 90 minutes lectures to 40 students aged between 20 and 25 and extra seminar to faculty members.
North Korea does have a central bank but many people do not use it and are using to cash systems. As it means they could understand better crypto better and fast.
“They don’t have this concept of modern central banking that sometimes makes it harder for people to understand bitcoin because they are used to other financial systems”.
The move shows North Korea’s first interest in cryptocurrencies although it has been accusing of mining Bitcoin. Also, for hoarding and stealing it through hacking. Recorded Future security intelligence company claims North Korea is mining crypto as a means to evade financial sanctions against it because of the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency.
“[The university] was allowed to offer this course, bring in a foreign expert, and educate North Korean students because the government and senior leaders realized the value of bitcoin and cryptocurrency as a generator of funds for the regime and allowed it,” Recorded Future’s Moriuchi said.
U.S. cybersecurity company FireEye, which sees sanctions as driving this sort of an activity, in September accused the country of attacking at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, using crypt I currencies to deal with sanctions, and others in its ongoing missile and nuclear tests. The university is said to train North Korea’s army of state hackers but dening the claims.
Tenga does not think that real mining activity is taking place in North Korea. He says someone could have been running tests.
“I was running a full bitcoin node while I was there. So maybe people monitoring North Korean internet think that somebody was mining that way. But I wasn’t”. A bitcoin node is a computer which contains a full copy of the entire bitcoin blockchain and helps verify all the transactions taking place on the network.”
A spokesman from Pyongyang University of Science and Technology told Vice News the course intends to “assist the DPRK. By building capacity that enables effective development and benefits the people of the DPRK” . Until that they are not using it for any illegal activity.
“We are acutely aware of sanctions issues and the risks of misuse or misappropriation of resources and know-how and take care to avoid any sensitive or proscribed areas.”