Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, revealed that he, alongside former U.N ambassador, Bill Richardson, urged the North Korean government to scrap off existing restrictions on internet access. Schmidt argued that their recommendation would be instrumental in improving the deplorable state of the economy in the isolated country, adding that officials in the country were seemingly open to technological exchanges. Schmidt, who was speaking in Beijing on Thursday, made these remarks on his arrival to Beijing China after a three-day trip to North Korea
“As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world,” he said. The Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) executive also made it clear that he and Richardson had clearly spelled out the implications of restricting internet access to the North Korean country. “it would make it harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very, very clear,” he remarked.
According to Schmidt, North Korea’s current communication framework has immense government involvement. Despite having a functional internet framework, Schmidt notes that the network is only accessible to the military, universities and the government, not the general public. In addition, the government provides overall oversight in all authorized sectors. Schmidt’s also adds that the cellular network in North Korea doesn’t support internet data and as such, it is impossible to access internet via mobile phones or other devices. When asked whether Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) had any plans of venturing into North Korea, Schmidt said that the government first needed to ease restrictions.
The trip to North Korea, which was placarded as a humanitarian mission, had alternate objectives. Nonetheless, Schmidt contends that one of his primary objectives was to discuss free and open internet. Richardson, who was there to delve into military issues, admitted that the discussions with the North Koreans on technology were the most productive talks of the trip.
Military discussions stall despite notable progress in technology talks
Despite making progress with discussions on technology, Richardson remarked that there was fiddling progress in military discussions. The former U.N ambassador revealed that the delegation were not able to get audience with the young North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Eun.
Although issues surrounding North Korea have been recurrent in varying political forums, the pariah state gained much attention in December after a successful rocket launch displayed notable breakthroughs in its missile capabilities. North Korea to date maintains that the December rocket launch was for peaceful and scientific purposes; something Richardson personally disagrees with.
Richardson also probed about American detainee, Kenneth Bae, pressing to know about his case. In response, North Korean officials said that judicial proceedings were imminent and that Bae’s health was good. Bae has been in custody since late last year on undisclosed charges.