North Koreans in Sweden on ‘discreet’ trade visit

A business and trade delegation from North Korea has been in Sweden learning about its economy and visiting companies, banks and state agencies, Swedish Radio reported on Friday.

“The participants are from universities, state export companies and the 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.

“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.

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Stockholm Pride is a little different this year: here’s what you need to know 

This week marks the beginning of Pride festivities in the Swedish capital. The tickets sold out immediately, for the partly in-person, partly digital events. 

Pride parade 2019
There won't be a Pride parade like the one in 2019 on the streets of Stockholm this year. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

You might have noticed rainbow flags popping up on major buildings in Stockholm, and on buses and trams. Sweden has more Pride festivals per capita than any other country and is the largest Pride celebration in the Nordic region, but the Stockholm event is by far the biggest.  

The Pride Parade, which usually attracts around 50,000 participants in a normal year, will be broadcast digitally from Södra Teatern on August 7th on Stockholm Pride’s website and social media. The two-hour broadcast will be led by tenor and debater Rickard Söderberg.

The two major venues of the festival are Pride House, located this year at the Clarion Hotel Stockholm at Skanstull in Södermalm, and Pride Stage, which is at Södra Teatern near Slussen.

“We are super happy with the layout and think it feels good for us as an organisation to slowly return to normal. There are so many who have longed for it,” chairperson of Stockholm Pride, Vix Herjeryd, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Tickets are required for all indoor events at Södra Teatern to limit the number of people indoors according to pandemic restrictions. But the entire stage programme will also be streamed on a big screen open air on Mosebacketerassen, which doesn’t require a ticket.  

You can read more about this year’s Pride programme on the Stockholm Pride website (in Swedish).