The DOJ charged a U.S. citizen with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ("IEEPA") for traveling to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ("DPRK") and speaking at a Pyongyang cryptocurrency conference.

According to a sealed Complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, the U.S. State Department denied the U.S. citizen permission to travel to the DPRK to attend a cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang. The DOJ alleges that the U.S. citizen nonetheless traveled to the DPRK and attended the conference. DOJ alleges that the U.S. citizen presented "valuable" information on blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies, and discussed how the DPRK could use the technologies to launder money and evade sanctions.

Conspiracy to violate the IEEPA carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Commentary

It is unclear from the Complaint what "good, service, or technology" the DOJ believes was improperly exported to the DPRK. The DOJ's own Complaint notes that the defendant claims that the information presented at the conference included "basic concepts accessible on the internet." This case, if not settled quickly, may raise novel questions about 1) whether and when a discussion about a technology equates to an export of that same technology, and 2) whether and when a technology that is open-source and free to all online can be exported.