A five-member North Korean delegation, who arrived in South Korea on Wednesday to attend an international peace forum, visited a Korean version of Silicon Valley on the southern outskirts of Seoul on Thursday.
The North’s delegates led by Ri Jong-hyok, vice chairman of the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, embarked on the tour by visiting the Second Techno Valley in the Pangyo district of Gyeonggi Province’s city of Seongnam.
Built next to the Pangyo Techno Valley, which houses more than 1,100 technology companies, the Second Techno Valley is designed to nurture some 1,400 startups and serve as a cluster for the fourth industrial revolution with its construction to be finished by 2022.
The 430,000-square-meter complex is also home to a testing ground for autonomous driving technology.
Following a tour of Pangyo, Ri and other North Korean officials reportedly plan to visit the Gyeonggi-do Agricultural Research & Extension Services in Hwaseong, 60 km south of Seoul, to observe smart farm technology and other high-tech agricultural facilities.
The 82-year-old Ri, a son of novelist Ri Ki-yong, who went from South Korea to the North in 1946 after Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule, is known for his long involvement in inter-Korean affairs.
Ri has no direct experience in science and technology but his tour of South Korea’s high-tech industrial facilities is significant in consideration of the Pyongyang regime’s ongoing campaign to advance economic and high-tech development, watchers say.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has shown significant interest in fostering the North’s competitiveness in information and communications technology and introducing advanced agricultural technologies.
It is the first time since 2007 that ranking North Korean officials have visited South Korea’s industrial facilities.
In August 2002, a North Korean delegation visited Samsung Electronics’ plant in Suwon, south of Seoul. In December 2007, another delegation from the North visited Kia Motors plant in South Korea.
Ri and four other North Korean officials plan to attend an international forum on Asia-Pacific peace and prosperity to be held in Goyang, north of Seoul, on Friday before returning home Saturday. (Yonhap)