Google Honcho Schmidt to Visit North Korea

Trip materializes days after Kim Jong Un calls to modernize country

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 3, 2013 12:03 AM CST

(Newser) – One of the titans of the World Wide Web is headed to one of the few places on Earth where the Internet isn't so world-wide: Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, will be joining former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on a humanitarian mission to North Korea, as early as this month, reports the AP. As there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries and heavy embargoes on North Korea, it's not clear who Schmidt might meet or what his goals for the visit—still unconfirmed—may be. But sparking speculation and interest is the North's new leader, Kim Jong Un, who called for a new "industrial revolution" for his impoverished country in his New Year's Day TV address.

"Perhaps the most intriguing part of this trip is simply the idea of it," says one analyst. "If Google is the first small step in piercing the information bubble in Pyongyang, it could be a very interesting development." Schmidt has long advocated using the Internet and mobile technology to help the poor and politically oppressed, with a new book on the subject, The New Digital Age, due to be published in April.

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2012 file photo, a North Korean woman sits in a computer room near portraits of the country's late leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, at the Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, North Korea. Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt is preparing...
FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2012 file photo, a North Korean woman sits in a computer room near portraits of the country's late leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, at the Kim Chaek University of Technology...   (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)
In this Oct. 29 2012, file photo, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt arrives at the Elysee Palace for a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, in Paris.
In this Oct. 29 2012, file photo, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt arrives at the Elysee Palace for a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, in Paris.   (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, File)
South Korean rapper PSY, who sings the popular Gangnam Style song,  teaches Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, right, his signature horse dance during their meeting at Google Korea headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Sept. 27, 2012.
South Korean rapper PSY, who sings the popular "Gangnam Style" song, teaches Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, right, his signature "horse dance" during their meeting at Google Korea headquarters...   (AP Photo/Yonhap)
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt shows the Nexus 7 tablet during a seminar at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt shows the Nexus 7 tablet during a seminar at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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