Google chairman Schmidt arrives in North Korea on humanitarian trip
Eric Schmidt traveled Monday to Pyongyang, along with former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson.
(Page 2 of 2)
The trip was planned well before North Korea announced its plans to send a satellite into space, two people with knowledge of the delegation's plans told The Associated Press. AP first reported the group's plans last Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Inside North Korea: more circus than bread
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Schmidt, a staunch proponent of Internet connectivity and openness, is expected to make a donation during the visit, while Richardson will try to discuss the detainment of a U.S. citizen jailed in Pyongyang, members of the delegation told AP. They asked not to be named, saying the trip was a private visit.
"We're going to try to inquire the status, see if we can see him, possibly lay the groundwork for him coming home," Richardson said of the U.S. citizen. "I heard from his son who lives in Washington state, who asked me to bring him back. I doubt we can do it on this trip."
The visit comes just days after Kim, who took power following the Dec. 17, 2011, death of his father, Kim Jong Il, laid out a series of policy goals for North Korea in a lengthy New Year's speech. He cited expanding science and technology as a means to improving the country's economy as a key goal for 2013.
North Korea's economy has languished for decades, particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which since the mid-1940s had provided the country with an economic safety net. North Korea, which has very little arable land, has relied on outside help to feed its people since a famine in the 1990s.
In recent years, North Korea has aimed to modernize its farms and digitize its factories. Farmers told the AP that management policies were revamped to encourage production by providing workers with incentives.
Computer and cellphone use is gaining ground in North Korea's larger cities.
However, most North Koreans only have access to a domestic Intranet system, not the World Wide Web. For North Koreans, Internet use is still strictly regulated and allowed only with approval.
Schmidt, who oversaw Google's expansion into a global Internet giant, speaks frequently about the importance of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology.
Accompanying Schmidt is Jared Cohen, a former U.S. State Department policy and planning adviser who heads Google's New York-based think tank. The two collaborated on a book about the Internet's role in shaping society called "The New Digital Age" that comes out in April.
Also leading the delegation is Kun "Tony" Namkung, a Korea expert who has made frequent trips to North Korea over the past 25 years and has worked as a consultant for The Associated Press.