By Beth Main
This bizarre set of holiday snaps shows Eric Schmidt and Bill Richardson ogling at North Koreas best and brightest Googling.
Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt arrived in North Korea on Monday, for what they say is a private trip (cross their hearts and hope to die). Although Richardson’s humanitarian aim is to liberate a US citizen awaiting trial in Pyongyang, no one is quite sure why Schmidt went along for the ride.
Against the wishes of the US State Department, Richardson went ahead with this trip to the DPRK that had already been postponed once due to the recent South Korean elections. The trip comes awkwardly soon after North Korea carried out a long-range rocket test last month. Richardson’s aim is not only to liberate Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour guide who was detained late last year, but also to open dialogue with North Korea.
Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, has made numerous trips to the DPRK in the past that have included efforts to free detained Americans. He is not the only big name to pull this off, a delegation led by former US president Bill Clinton in 2009 secured the release of two American journalists. Some observers suggested Schmidt’s participation may just be to add a little glamour to proceedings.
The delegation also included Schmidt’s daughter and Google executive Jared Cohen. But the Internet giant still insists this is definitely NOT a Google visit. Pyongyang didn’t seem to get this message as it proceeded to parade the Americans through a staged Google-fest at Kim Il-sung University.
The Internet is not ubiquitous in North Korea like it is in most of the world, the privilege is only extended to a small elite including the students at Kim Il-sung University (who have apparently been surfing the web since Kim Jong-il gifted them a e-laboratory in April 2010). The government closely controls who logs on, where they log on, how long they log on for and what they can view online.
Incidentally Eric Schmidt’s job description at Google reads:
As executive chairman, he is responsible for the external matters of Google: building partnerships and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership.
So if it was a business trip, job done.
North Korea currently ranks bottom in an annual survey of internet and press freedom by Reporters Without Borders. It is a country sorely in need of the internet, if only to refute the belief that unicorns are real.
[Via: The Atlantic Wire]