Feeds

Google boss lands in North Korea for humanitarian mission

Mr. Schmidt (and team) goes to Pyongyang

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has landed in North Korea for a private visit to the Hermit Kingdom, and he's bringing an interesting entourage.

Schmidt is joining a private humanitarian visit with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to discuss the future of Korean-American Kenneth Bae, who was arrested last month in the North Korean capital Pyongyang for "hostile acts."

"I know the State Department is a little nervous," Richardson told CBS News, "but we did postpone this trip already. Eric and I were going in December, and at the request of the State Department, we postponed it because of the South Korean presidential election. We're not representing the State Department, so they shouldn't be that nervous."

Schmidt is bringing along his daughter and Google Director of Ideas Jared Cohen, a former US State Department employee and Rhodes Scholar who's been collaborating with Schmidt on a study of the impact of internet connectivity on developing nations. Richardson is an old hand at dealing with the North Koreans, having made half a dozen trips out there, but Google's involvement is a new twist to the visit.

It comes after North Korean premier Kim Jong-un made surprise New Year's address in which he called for a new industrial revolution to move the country forward into the technological era. For a state that's barely in the 20th century in many respects, this is a tall order, but it seems that the world's youngest head of state is keen to modernize.

The North Koreans have engaged German industrial analysts and lawyers to develop a Vietnamese-style development model, where outside investment is allowed in certain specific areas. According to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the results of the consultation so far aren't good.

One economist's conclusion, that the Stalinist state has a "completely rotten manufacturing economy" with around 5 per cent of the productivity of its Southern counterpart, may help persuade Kim Jong-un of the need for change. Certainly based on the state's first computer game, it has a long, long way to go.

Meanwhile, the US State Department has criticized the trip as unhelpful, since tensions are high after the North Koreans sort-of successfully put a satellite into orbit last month. While the country did manage to get into orbit, the satellite is tumbling out of control – indicating that North Korean boffins haven't mastered the "what comes up must come down" principles of rocketry.

It's unlikely that Google's going to be getting any type of access to North Korea soon – only a few top families in the state have full access to the internet and the country is rated the worst in the world for online access. But Schmidt obviously feels it's worth the trip.

Mr Schmidt goes pleb class

Mr Schmidt goes pleb class

The journey there must have been something of a trial for him however, considering the usually palatial style of Google management's air travel. The company negotiated a special deal with NASA to park its corporate jets at Moffett Field, and the craft themselves have private bedrooms and restaurant-quality dining.

Schmidt and his entourage must have been missing those perks somewhat as they de-bussed at Pyongyang airport from a commercial Air China flight. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.