Google chairman Eric Schmidt to visit North Korea

 

It’s one of the few countries in the world that his website can’t reach, but Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt is planning his first trip to North Korea.

The visit, which is being billed as a private humanitarian exercise, could take place as soon as this month.

North Korea boasts the world’s strictest internet policies: just 4,000 members of the Pyongyang elite have access to the web, and visitors are ordered to leave their smartphones at the airport. But in a televised address on Monday, North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-Un declared the need for a technology-led “industrial revolution” to improve the country’s ailing economy.

In a sign that the reclusive nation might be inching towards openness, Mr Schmidt will travel to Pyongyang accompanied by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, an envoy who has dealt with the North Korean regime regularly over the past two decades. The US government is unhappy about the visit, however; State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today that its timing was not “particularly helpful.” The Kim regime recently arrested a US citizen, Pae Jun Ho, on unspecified charges.

It is not thought that Google has any immediate business interest in North Korea. Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean Studies at Seoul’s Kyungnam University, told the Associated Press it was more likely Mr Kim’s administration was keen to pick the Google boss’s brains about software, such as email and mapping applications. Last year, a group of North Korean officials visited the search giant’s headquarters in northern California.

Victor Cha, the Korea Chair at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a blog post today that Mr Kim – who was schooled in Switzerland – “clearly has a penchant for the modern accoutrements of life. If Google is the first small step in piercing the information bubble in Pyongyang, it could be a very interesting development.”

Mr Schmidt is a vocal believer in the power of the internet to thwart political oppression, and has become increasingly involved in international affairs. In 2010 he hired Jared Cohen, a former advisor to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton at the US State Department, as the director of Google Ideas: a think-tank that seeks technological solutions to global issues.

Steven Levy, author of In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, told The Independent: “In the last couple of years, Eric has really become interested in international diplomacy… He has thought more and more about the international impact of technology. Google is a big player in that.”

Does North Korea have a little Kim?

Speculation has been reignited about whether there is a new baby in the ruling Kim dynasty in North Korea. Leader Kim Jong-un’s wife who appeared to be pregnant in mid-December, no longer had a baby bump by New Year’s Day.

Video footage broadcast on 17 December showed Ri Sol-ju, wearing a billowing black dress that covered what appeared to be a swollen belly.

Rumours swept Seoul and Pyongyang that she was pregnant.

But Ri was shown by state TV at a New Year’s Day concert wearing a tighter dress and looking noticeably slimmer. There has been no official word from Pyongyang.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk