eric schmidt

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt today landed in North Korea, accompanied by former ambassador to the U.N, Bill Richardson. The visit has been described by Richardson as a ‘private humanitarian mission’. Despite the trip’s seemingly pure motive, the U.S state department have not bought into the whole idea and expressed blatant dismay for the trip. Last week, at the prospect of the trip, the U.S state department noted that the timing of the trip was not helpful, citing a controversial missile launch by North Korea.

North Korea, which is considered a pariah state  with nuclear ambitions, currently has Korean-American Kenneth Bae under detention. Richardson noted that Bae will be a subject of discussion, maintaining that he will in addition discuss other issues of great importance. Richardson, who invited Schmidt to join him in the trip, has made a bold clear message that Schmidt’s trip to North Korea represents his personal interests and not those of Google. “He is going as a private citizen; this is not a Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) trip,” he said in an interview with CBS.

Richardson’s group, which reportedly consists of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) executive Jared Cohen and Schmidt’s daughter, will most likely leave Pyongyang on Wednesday or early Thursday as Richardson is expected to speak to the press on Thursday on his return to Beijing China.

This is not the first time that Schmidt has dipped his toe into politics. The executive has in the past shown unfaltering support for President Barrack Obama. While Richardson is a frequent visitor to North Korea, Schmidt is one of first big U.S CEOs to visit North Korea, a state which  makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The irony

In as much it has been explicitly made clear that Schmidt’s trip is personal, it is still ironic that Schmidt is visiting North Korea. Why is this so? North Korea presents no opportunities for Google as it has heavy restrictions on internet use. On the other hand, South Korea, which is North Korea’s age-old enemy and close neighbor, is home to Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930), one of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s biggest partners.