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Google exec chairman to visit North Korea

Published:Thursday | January 3, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. - File

Google's executive chairman is preparing to travel to one of the last frontiers of cyberspace: North Korea.

Eric Schmidt will be travelling to North Korea on a private, humanitarian mission led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson that could take place as early as this month, sources told The Associated Press yesterday. The sources, two people familiar with the group's plans, asked not to be named because the visit had not been made public.

The trip would be the first by a top executive from United States-based Google, the world's largest Internet search provider, to a country considered to have the most restrictive Internet policies on the planet.

no personal internet

North Korea is in the midst of what leader Kim Jong Un called a modern-day "industrial revolution", in a New Year's Day speech to the nation on Monday. He is pushing science and technology as a path to economic development for the impoverished country, aiming for computers in every school and digitised machinery in every factory.

However, giving citizens open access to the Internet has not been part of the regime's strategy. While some North Koreans can access a domestic Intranet service, very few have clearance to freely surf the World Wide Web.

It was not immediately clear who Schmidt and Richardson expect to meet in North Korea, a country that does not have diplomatic relations with the United States (US). North Korea has almost no business with companies in the US, which has banned the import of North Korean-made goods.

Schmidt, however, has been a vocal advocate of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology.

- AP