Sanctions Weren't Discussed at North Korea Crypto Conference, Attendee Says

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An Italian citizen who attended the North Korean cryptocurrency conference in April says the U.S. government's charges against his friend and ethereum developer Virgil Griffith are overblown.

Griffith has been charged under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act for allegedly providing technological training that would make it easier for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to evade U.S. economic sanctions.

"The sanctions were not a topic at all," said Pietrosanti, who attended the event on the same trip as Griffith, the Ethereum Foundation staffer arrested by the FBI on Thanksgiving Day.According to Pietrosanti, the conference took up two days of a larger trip that allowed a small group of non-North Koreans to have a look at the so-called "Hermit kingdom." The visit's full itinerary can be viewed on the state website.

He asserted multiple times that the sanctions were not discussed at the DPRK conference.

More broadly, Pietrosanti said that the conference provided a reason for some outsiders to get access to North Korea and see part of the country.

They were in North Korea for a week, Pietrosanti said, with several days of seeing different parts of the country under a strict schedule, continuously with government minders.

He estimated that the conference involved something like 40 to 60 North Koreans and fewer than 10 outsiders, but Pietrosanti emphasized that the event functioned nothing like a western conference would.

While the initial agenda was completely planned out by the organizers and approved by the government, Pietrosanti said that they didn't actually have enough material approved to cover two days of a conference.

"The conference program was a bit improvised," he said.

The conference is scheduled to take place again in 2020, according to its website.