Tech delegation presses Web openness in N. Korea
PYONGYANG, North Korea -- A private U.S. delegation including Google's Eric Schmidt is urging North Korea to allow more open Internet access and cellphones to benefit its citizens, the mission's leader said yesterday in a country with some of the world's tightest controls on information.
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said his nine-member group also called on North Korea to put a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests that have prompted UN sanctions, and asked for fair and humane treatment for an American citizen detained. He spoke in Pyongyang in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
The visit has been criticized for appearing to hijack U.S. diplomacy and boost Pyongyang's profile after North Korea's latest, widely condemned rocket launch. Richardson has said the delegation is on a private, humanitarian trip.
Schmidt, the executive chairman of the U.S.-based Internet giant Google, is the highest-profile American business executive to visit North Korea since leader Kim Jong Un took power a year ago.
Although Schmidt often meets with government officials around the world on behalf of Google, this trip was not at the company's request.
Schmidt has not said publicly what he hopes to get out of his visit, but he has been a vocal proponent of Internet freedom and openness, and is publishing a book in April with Jared Cohen, director of the company's Google Ideas think tank, about the power of global connectivity in transforming lives, policies and politics.
Yesterday, he toured the frigid brick building in Pyongyang that is the heart of North Korea's own computer industry.