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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine