Eric Schmidt is set to visit North Korea as part of a humanitarian mission, along with Bill Richardson, a former democratic New Mexico governor who is known for his skill in sensitive negotiations. While there are a few reasons the pair are thought to be going, the US government has said they aren’t being sent in any official capacity and actually it has criticised the move.
One of the reasons cited for the trip is due to the recent incarceration of an American – suggested as Washington resident Kenneth Bae – on the 21st December. According to Wired, he was arrested near the Chinese border, where he was found with other tourists. Among the group, a disk was found that purportedly contained sensitive North Korean data.
With a history of taking part in sensitive negotiations, such as the release of US citizens from Saddam Hussein in the 90s, Bill Richardson’s presence is thought to be linked with this arrest. Mr Schmidt however, is just as likely to try and influence current party leader, Kim Jong-Un to allow for greater internet access in the country. While a large portion of the North Korean populace lack basic amenities, almost none have access to the internet.
Jong-Un recently announced as part of his New Year’s Day speech, that he would be pushing the country to greater heights with “science and technology,” following on from the successful launch of a satellite a fortnight before. If he was referring to the internet, North Korean history would suggest that it won’t be made available to average citizens, but then again, Jong-Un’s interests are largely unknown as with most NK leaders, so his eventual aims remain shrouded in mystery.
Perhaps the most likely outcome of any internet push from the NK authorities, would be to create something similar to China where access is limited and content is controlled. However people get around Chinese filters all the time, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Koreans do the same.
KitGuru Says: It certainly would be interesting if people like Schmidt could help open North Korean up to the rest of the world. Documentaries in the region are fascinating as it’s so removed from the global community. Bringing it on board via the internet would be very exciting.