Feeds

Eric Schmidt heading on mystery mission to North Korea

Economic kaboom possible when über-capitalist meets anti-capitalist

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Google chairman Eric Schmidt is heading to the least internet-friendly country on the planet, according to AP, with a forthcoming trip to North Korea on his schedule.

Schmidt will be accompanying former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who's a repeat visitor to the self-styled "Best Korea". The meeting is a private affair by the two and isn't related to any official government contact. It could, however, be related to the recent arrest of a US citizen of Korean descent who has been convicted of "hostile" acts in Pyongyang – Richardson has brokered prisoner releases before.

But what makes the inclusion of Schmidt on the guest list interesting was Tuesday's surprise New Year address from North Korean premier Kim Jong-un. The youthful leader told the citizens of his state paradise that the country would have to focus on building up its technological chops to ensure its future prosperity.

"We should bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant on the strength of science and technology by fanning the flames of the industrial revolution in the new century," he told his captive audience.

"The industrial revolution in the new century is, in essence, a scientific and technological revolution, and breaking through the cutting edge is a shortcut to the building of an economic giant," Kim said. "Like the satellite scientists who conquered outer space we should wage a dynamic campaign to push back the frontiers of science and technology so as to develop the country's overall science and technology to the world standards as soon as possible."

Kim Jong-un

Why does that cat look so grumpy?

He's got a mountain to climb. North Korea is possibly the most unconnected country on the planet, and what few internet access points it has are heavily controlled, with the penalty for unauthorized access usually being a spell in a reeducation camp. The country is also under a technological embargo from the UN.

The contrast with South Korea couldn't be sharper. There the government invested in a fiber network for the nation, and internet use and speeds are some of the highest in the world. In his New Year address, Kim spoke of reconnecting with the South; doing this online could require very big pipes.

It's certainly unlikely that Google would be asked to play a role in any wiring up of North Korean society. The Chocolate Factory has a fractious relationship with China, North Korea's biggest ally, and a sudden influx of facts could cause massive social upheaval (but might help the country build a working satellite next time.)

But Kim's ascension could be the sign of glasnost in the so-called "hermit kingdom". He's the youngest head of state in the world and may have big ideas for his little country, but he could find that opening his firewall unleashes an unwelcome torrent.

Ever since Schmidt stood down from day-to-day operations at Google, he's becoming something of a roving ambassador for global internet issues. It could be that the price of some poor soul's freedom is a session with the man himself, and Schmidt is one of the world's experts on information flows.

"The spread of mobile phones and new forms of connectivity offer us the prospect of connecting everybody," Schmidt said in commencement speech at Boston University in May. "When that happens, connectivity can revolutionize every aspect of society: politically, socially, economically."

Kim might be looking for a way to manage that revolution – as China seems to be – and to reap the benefits of being online while keeping social control. It'll be a tricky route, but one about which Schmidt should be able to provide expert advice. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.