Google’s Schmidt Touches Down In Pyongyang, Despite The Critics

Purpose of high-profile visit is not clear, but Richardson suggests there may be a "social media aspect"
January 7th, 2013
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Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, today arrived in North Korea following days of heated debate about their trip.  While it’s the seventh time Richardson’s visited the DPRK, it marks Schmidt’s first visit, leaving many observers pondering what will come of it.

Although some speculate that Schmidt hopes to open a new market in the country, North Korea’s highly limited internet access and computer infrastructure make this improbable. Although the delegation has stated several times that the visit is not being conducted on behalf of the United States government, some political figures have openly criticized the trip.  Today, Senator John McCain evoked an old Cold War slur and labeled Schmidt and Richardson as  “useful idiots” for going to North Korea under present circumstances.

Despite McCain’s complaints, the delegation appears to be in good hands with Richardson. In a recent interview with FoxNews, Richardson said that he knows “what makes them [the North Koreans] tick.”   With the trip allegedly having been scheduled to negotiate the release of imprisoned Korean-American Kenneth Bae, it is hoped that the pair will be able to bring Bae back to home territory through their negotiations.

Mr. Richardson explained his visit to AP reporters:

This is not a Google trip, but I’m sure [Schmidt] is interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect. So this is why we are teamed up on this.

Schmidt is the highest-ranking American business executive ever to visit North Korea, the AP today  reported. Schmidt and Richardson flew to Pyongyang on a commercial flight on Air China from Beijing. Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, is also on the trip.

Picture by Charles Haynes

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.