Google's Schmidt plans North Korea trip: AP

Wed Jan 2, 2013 11:28pm EST
 
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, will travel this year to reclusive North Korea, where Internet use is subject to some of the world's tightest controls, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Schmidt, one of the highest-profile leaders of the U.S. technology industry, could visit as early as this month, the AP said. The announcement was made days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the third member of his family to rule the country since its inception in the Cold War, signaled a willingness to improve relations with South Korea.

It was unclear whom Schmidt will meet or what his agenda might be, the AP reported. Internet access is largely restricted to all but the most influential officials of the reclusive state. Media content is also rigidly controlled, although basic 3G cellphone use is said to be rapidly expanding.

Google did not directly respond to a question about whether Schmidt was going to North Korea, although a spokeswoman's response suggested a visit would not be for company business.

"We do not comment on personal travel," spokeswoman Samantha Smith said when asked about the AP report.

Schmidt, Google's main political and government relations representative, has also been a prominent supporter of President Barack Obama.

Google famously espouses a "do no evil" philosophy and campaigns for Internet freedom. It pulled its search service from mainland China in 2010, relocating it to Hong Kong because it said it could not conform with censorship requirements.

Last year, the company flew in North Korean defectors from Seoul for a panel discussion at a summit it hosted focusing on global illicit networks. It has also hosted North Korean officials in Silicon Valley, according to the Asia Foundation, which co-hosted part of a trip by the North Korean delegation.

"I think this is part of Google's broader vision to bring the Internet to the world, and North Korea is the last frontier," said Peter Beck, the South Korean representative of the Asia Foundation, a non-profit organization. "I suspect that Google's visit is more philanthropic than financial."   Continued...

 
Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt poses prior to a meeting at the Culture Ministry in Paris October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Miguel Medina/Pool