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North Koreans in Sweden on 'discreet' trade visit

AFP/The Local · 5 Oct 2012, 11:06

Published: 05 Oct 2012 11:06 GMT+02:00

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"The participants are from universities, state export companies and the Korea">North Korean foreign trade ministry. They have been invited by the International Council of Swedish Industry," the public radio station said.

Sweden has longstanding ties with North Korea, and was the first Western country to establish diplomatic relations. It opened an embassy in Pyongyang in 1975.

Discretion has surrounded the visit, which has lasted around two weeks. The Swedish foreign ministry did not return calls to AFP asking whether it was involved in any way.

North Korea has one of the world's most rigidly controlled economies and is desperately poor following decades of mismanagement and isolation.

North Korea watchers and media reports in South Korea say new leader Kim Jong-Un has shown signs of promoting market reforms since taking power following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il last December.

A senior lecturer at Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology, Björn Berggren, was contracted to speak to the delegation but would not disclose any information.

"I'm forbidden from doing so," he told the radio.

The marketing director of a vegetable wholesaler in Stockholm, Benny Olsson, also met with about 25 members of the delegation and was more forthcoming.

"They had millions of questions. They asked how much we earn, what the average salary is and many of the questions were about how involved the government is," Olsson said.

"They asked us if the government decided what the company's maximum salary is. They had to ask the question several times because I didn't understand. They come from a completely different world, they don't understand our world and I don't understand theirs," he said.

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"I don't know what jobs any of them had, all I know is that they were high-ranking economists from North Korea, that's it," he said.

Johan Alvin of the International Council of Swedish Industry organised the North Korean visit.

"We support their wish to learn more about our type of economy," he told the radio.

The delegation's visit was at least partly funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, a government agency.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:57 October 5, 2012 by Eric1
The people of North Korea are starving and they want to sell food to the Swedes for money for their "Dear Leader". The leaders of North Korea make Stalin and Hitler look like angels.
14:01 October 5, 2012 by just a question
How do they dare to make business with a country where people starve to death? a country full of concentration camps where children are locked only because their parents dare to think different?
15:31 October 5, 2012 by wabasha
any non-military contact north korea has with the outside world is a good thing
17:07 October 5, 2012 by Silberfüchschen
How about paying for the Volvo cars that you "bought" in the 1970s?
19:31 October 5, 2012 by eurobloke
Eric1, the leader of the DPRK is "The Great Successor Kim Jong-un", not "The Great General Kim Jong-il".
11:41 October 6, 2012 by Richard Head
How about taking in tens of thousands of North Koreans every year rather than what we are taking in now....which obviously isn't working? Could you really see violent, North Korean ghettos in Sweden? lol. I think not.
08:50 October 8, 2012 by skogsbo
I think Sweden is entitled to it's tactics, one thing is for certain you won't change N Korea by shout at it's leaders, about human rights etc. because nothing has changed in decades. Better to try a more tactical approach, change from within is the only way it will work via the leadership. Look at Syria if you want to see an example of change going badly wrong. Even the 'Kim whoever' wanted to change, his generals would probably kill him if he tried to modernise his nation, in the hope of having sanctions lifted.
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