Google Chairman Eric Schmidt To Visit North Korea
The leader of one of the most omnipresent companies in cyberspace is planning to visit one of the world’s last totalitarian dictatorships. According to anonymous sources, Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt will visit North Korea in an upcoming, private, humanitarian mission.
Schmidt will reportedly be travelling with former Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a diplomat who has visited North Korea several times; and Tony Namkung, another North Korea expert.
It is unclear why Schmidt is going, what he hopes to achieve (if anything), and with whom the group hopes to meet. North Korea is one of the most isolated countries in the world, especially from the US, which forbids imports from the nation. The US has also imposed trade sanctions on North Korea, specifically targeting luxury items believed to be favored by the previous ruler, Kim Jong Il- including tech gadgets like the iPod.
But lack of hardware is not the only thing that would make a North Korean Google almost unthinkable: the country has some of the strictest internet restrictions in the world. Some citizens are allowed to access a domestic intranet, while only a small fraction can surf the web freely.
During Schmidt’s tenure, Google did business with China, only to withdraw their support after discovering hacking attempts and censorship of their services from that country.
Google’s famous unofficial slogan is, “Don’t Be Evil.”
But current ruler Kim Jong Un has hinted that he may be a reformer, even praising advances in science and technology during a surprise (and suspiciously warm) New Year’s Eve address.
But Schmidt’s visit could have nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with negotiations. North Korea recently announced that they had arrested an American citizen, Kenneth Bae, under suspicion of committing “hostile” acts, which could carry a sentence of ten years hard labor.
Richardson has several times visited North Korea to negotiate the release of American prisoners; and as Bill Clinton showed, it doesn’t hurt to have a little celebrity for such situations. If the current leadership of Pyongyang are technophiles, maybe Eric Schmidt will carry a little star power (assuming they couldn’t get Mark Zuckerberg to come).
What do you think Schmidt will do in North Korea?
[via the AP]