North Korea's first information technology (IT) fair drew about 1,200 people to the China World Trade Centre in Beijing, where 42 researchers displayed software developed by state-owned institutions. Exhibitors at the Computer Software Expo of DPR Korea hoped to find a world market for their software to help improve North Korea's economy. Contrary to its image as a country that struggles to feed its people, and even though people have few computers and no Internet access, North Korean institutes such as Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang said they had been developing software for 40 years. Qian Qun, a director of the Pan-Pacific Economic Development Association of Korean Nationals, said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il organised the IT fair delegation in part because his government aimed to make IT account for about 45 per cent of the national economy during the next five years. While the country's industrial IT lagged world standards, its civil IT was on a par with developed countries. Universities, research institutes and state-run companies developed software in North Korea. North Koreans would work for about a third of the pay that Chinese technical staff earned, so the country could become attractive to South Korean companies as a manufacturing base. The exhibitors chose Beijing so they could visit the China Comdex show held last week and because foreign IT companies that could potentially form partnerships with North Korean companies had local offices. Chinese and other visitors to the software expo on Sunday and Monday examined software that could forecast weather, identify fingerprints and play the strategy game go. The fingerprint program has been sold in Africa, and it won a software prize in Geneva. Exhibitors attracted some spot buyers, but saw the show largely as a way to demonstrate their software, hoping it could lead to co-operative ventures later. 'We got a lot of contacts set up. It's a long way to go from the exhibition to contracts. We have a lot of work to do,' Mr Qian said. The most popular program over the two days was Paduk, a computer go game designed by six researchers at the North Korea Computer Centre. An American visitor travelled there from Hong Kong just to see it, Mr Qian said, and he bought a software package for 280 yuan (about HK$262). Ri Kyongho, director of the computer institute's application software centre, said the team designed the five-level graphics-intensive game six years ago to reach other go players rather than to sell. It was now selling mainly in Japan and South Korea, generating about US$1 million per year.