During his humanitarian trip to North Korea, Google’s Eric Schmidt has been shown how some of the country’s most privileged access the internet. In such a strictly controlled society, only a select few are given access to the internet.
Schmidt was shown how students work as part of his visit to an “e-library,” at the Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang. It appears though, that unlike countries like China which restrict access to a lot of information, those that do get access to the HP machines in North Korea, aren’t subject to digital controls like filters. During his visit, Schmidt observed a student accessing the website of Cornell University, as well as Google itself. Schmidt explained the the demoing student that he worked at the search engine and even looked up New York on wikipedia to show the young man where he lived.
However, it was explained to him that all students were under strict observation while online and had instructions to only access educational sites.
What’s the bet that as soon as the “librarian’s” head is turned, up comes Youtube?
Indeed, the trouble isn’t what websites you can actually access through the computers, it getting on one in the first place that’s difficult. According to The Guardian’s report, students must first register for permission and submit an application with their research requests – because of this the computers are not often used, despite the facility being open 8am to midnight every day.
However, librarian Ryu Sun-ryol believes that it won’t be long before anyone can access it, suggesting that North Korea was currently undergoing a major push to add computers to all classrooms and workplaces. If true, this would represent a big change from traditional North Korean policy, which is to limit its citizens’ access to information.
This could well be a changeup that happened as part of the election of the new leader, Kim Jong-un, son of oft parodied Kim Jong-il.
Schmidt’s reasons for visiting North Korea haven’t been publicly stated, but it’s believed to be linked with the incarceration of a US citizen, who is being charged with attempting to leave the country with sensitive NK data.
KitGuru Says: The fact that the computer library is always available, but rarely used isn’t surprising. If you’ve seen any documentaries on North Korea, its authorities like to have facilities available that are almost 100 per cent for tourists to look at. It does its best to portray a prosperous and forward thinking society, despite the fact that the country is rife with poverty.