[ View the story "Google's rare window into North Korea" on Storify] Google's rare window into North Korea Eric Schmidt calls for North Korea to end its technological isolation.
The Stream· Mon, Jan 21 2013 13:20:03
Eric Schmidt focused primarily on the obstacles to internet access in North Korea, which he said were political rather than technological.
As the world becomes increasingly connected, the North Korean decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world and their economic growth. It will make it harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very, very clear.plus.google.com
On her own post, Sophie Schmidt provided a window of insight into the surreal nature of the high-profile trip.
My father's reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open.sites.google.com
Though the tour was heavily supervised, she mentions a few glimpses of North Korea that were not staged by government minders.
In a fantastic bit of timing, as we exited the train, the station's power cut out (above right). The commuters around us immediately pulled out flashlights, which they presumably carry all the time. Can't win 'em all, minders.sites.google.com
Much of the tour focused on North Korea's technological advancements, which the Schmidts praised as possible avenues toward future access. However, some of the country's displays of technological abilities struck Sophie as a false front.
Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up. One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in--a noisy bunch, with media in tow--not one of them looked up from their desks. Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines. Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling.sites.google.com
What's so odd about the whole thing is that no one in North Korea can even hope to afford the things they showed us. And it's not like they're going to export this technology. They're building products for a market that doesn't exist.sites.google.com
Because the Leaders are god-like figures, when one provides "on-site guidance" (which they always can, because they are experts in all things) it's like a benediction.sites.google.com
Both Eric and Sophie Schmidt generally refrained from sharp criticism of the North Korean government's human rights abuses. But after the trip, an update to Google Earth's satellite imagery showed the
of a new addition to the country's
One blogger criticised Schmidt and former US governor Bill Richardson, who also visited, for lending the North Korean government legitimacy through their trip. She asked, "Why don't they raise the labour camps?"
What would have been more important, in my view, would be for Richardson and Schmidt to call for the brutal and torturous labour camps to be closed. It's not merely about connecting to the Internet; it's about first having people be free even to speak in real life and find their own way to lasting freedom.3dblogger.typepad.com
North Korea's human rights violations led some, including US State Department adviser Alec Ross, to remain
about the trip.
Yes Eric Schmidt, North Korea not having optimum internet connectivity will be the reason they fall behind economically. #stupidSpencer Scott
But both Schmidts seemed to believe that greater access to the outside world was only a matter of time for the country. Sophie Schmidt says of the North Koreans:
They seemed to acknowledge that connectivity is coming, and that they can't hope to keep it out. Indeed, some seemed to understand that it's only with connectivity that their country has a snowball's chance in hell of keeping up with the 21st century. But we'll have to wait and see what direction they choose to take.sites.google.com