1:28 am - 01/08/2013

Why Is Google Exec Interested In North Korea?

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has landed in North Korea. His trip there is a bit of a mystery.

Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, has been a vocal proponent of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology. North Korea doesn't even let its citizens access the open Internet, and its population is overwhelmingly poor — so it's not exactly a coveted audience for advertisers.

And Google has rubbed the authoritarian regime of China the wrong way by challenging its "Great Firewall." In 2010, Google pulled its servers out of mainland China, and the company has refused to self-censor its search results there.

But, there is speculation that Schmidt's presence in North Korea could have an upside for Google by positioning him as the company's global ambassador. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, told Wired that Schmidt "seems to be doing an exceptional job at government relations."

Pfeffer noted that Google avoided recent antitrust problems in the U.S., and that Schmidt may be setting himself up as an international man of mystery who can help the company as it faces antitrust regulators in Europe.

North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un, also recently gave a speech laying out a series of policy goals for his country that included expanding science and technology as a way to improve the North Korean economy in 2013.

Victor Cha, a director of Asian affairs for the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, told Wired that Schmidt's visit was a "good opportunity for the North Korean leadership to signal to the world that they're serious about going forward."

Cha said that Kim, who was educated in the West, may also be seduced by all the cool new technology. "He's got to be interested in this stuff," Cha said. But, Cha added, "as soon as he allows open access to it, he can kiss his leadership goodbye."

Schmidt is part of a delegation being led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has made more than a half-dozen trips to North Korea over the past 20 years. Richardson called the trip a private humanitarian mission.

Speaking about Schmidt's presence, Richardson said, "This is not a Google trip, but I'm sure he's interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect. So this is why we are teamed up on this."

Schmidt also brought along his daughter and Jared Cohen, a former U.S. State Department policy and planning adviser who now heads Google's New York-based think tank.

U.S. officials are critical of the four-day trip, which comes less than a month after North Korea launched a satellite into space using a long-range rocket, which Washington considers a test of ballistic missile technology. Officials say the launch is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions barring North Korea from developing its nuclear missile program.

A State Department spokesperson said officials "don't think the timing of the visit is helpful."

source: NPR

While I don't see the Internet and Google being a common thing in North Korean households any time soon, it IS true that if North Korea's population could readily communicate the government would have to kiss its dictatorship goodbye. What do you think Omona? Is the internet powerful enough to mean the downfall of a government?
vagueclarity 8th-Jan-2013 07:15 am (UTC)
the google exec himself is a bit of a mystery, no?

(this sets itself up for the plotline of a good thriller series)
jenniquack 8th-Jan-2013 07:33 am (UTC)
curious indeed
*chin scratching*
hellicoptajuuce 8th-Jan-2013 11:17 am (UTC)
40 million+ users for google to datamine of course theyre going to be interested there's a lot of profit for them if NK get's the internet
atelierlune 8th-Jan-2013 12:47 pm (UTC)
They can't hardly feed themselves though. What are they going to do with internet right away? Someday, sure, but people have insisted that if there's reunification, NK is going to drag SK down like East Germany drags/ed down West Germany economically.
purekpopology 8th-Jan-2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
Agreed. NK will drag SK down like W/E Germany. I've also heard that since they've been divided for so long there's even started to be deviations in the Korean language for both sides. I know South Koreans like to think of all the people as just "Koreans", but as time goes on they aren't going to have much in common, and one will just drag the other down. Sad truth :(.
atelierlune 8th-Jan-2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
It's really hard, because I don't want to see North Koreans starved to nothing either. If they are going to survive, and eventually catch up with the rest of the world, they're going to need a lot of time and handholding, and even then it won't bring happiness. I continue to be confused and saddened when East Germans say they wish they could go back to pre-Berlin Wall days, because to me the Berlin Wall and all that came before represents everything that is wrong with the world.

This is quite a deviation, but if Communism was overthrown in NK tomorrow and the rebel faction said "Hey world, we've disposed of communism forever, help us out," and SK didn't reunify with them, what would they do?
purekpopology 9th-Jan-2013 12:10 am (UTC)
It's definitely hard. It seems cruel to abandon them to survive on their own, but it seems unfair to expect any one country, SK, in this case to take on that burden alone. Do you think it would be possible for NK to rehabilitate on their own?

Do you live in Germany? I never thought people would say that! I thought everyone celebrated that the wall came down. I'm kind of sad myself to hear that some people see it as a bad thing :(.

If SK didn't reunify with them (especially after so much talk about wanting to) at BEST I think it would create decades of resentment/anger, and at worst actual war/violence. I don't know if NK is capable of real attacks against SK, but considering its military is the ONLY thing it seems to be spending money on, maybe.
45s 8th-Jan-2013 01:31 pm (UTC)
lol this.

ppl don't get that google makes most of its money from advertising. i don't see any other motive than this.

and lol at providing ppl with free expression. they caved in to china. why do you guys think n korea would be the same?

Edited at 2013-01-08 01:32 pm (UTC)
purekpopology 8th-Jan-2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
They caved in China? Didn't they do the opposite? After people tried to hack Google because of the censorship, Google pulled out of China. They were making a stand that said "your people clearly don't want censored searches, and if we have to keep censoring our searches, we don't want to offer our service to your country". Then they had an automatic redirect from Google China to Google Hong Kong because searches weren't censored on Google HK. They had to eventually stop that though. If you heard something else let me know, I'm interested.

And what would they advertise to the poor people of NK? Clothes and electronics they can't buy?
aliice 8th-Jan-2013 12:24 pm (UTC)
I went to panel discussion on media "freedom" in NK awhile back and there has been a lot of efforts from Google in assisting in research and trying to figure out a way to provide means of expression for NK people. Def not about money imo, NK doesn't have it.
atelierlune 8th-Jan-2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that there's a tiny percentage of people who may have internet in NK because they make enough money to maintain it...but what then? I just wonder about audience there. Google is certainly not going to reach Farmer Kim and his wife on the proverbial farm.
p_jae 8th-Jan-2013 12:49 pm (UTC)
Is the internet powerful enough to mean the downfall of a government?

Considering what's happening in the middle east right now, yes.
purekpopology 8th-Jan-2013 11:50 pm (UTC)
That's what I was thinking :).
supplanter 8th-Jan-2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
A State Department spokesperson said officials "don't think the timing of the visit is helpful."

I don't get this. NK is always going to pull shit no matter what, basically, so when would be a better time (for anything) than asap?
purekpopology 8th-Jan-2013 11:50 pm (UTC)
atelierlune 9th-Jan-2013 12:02 am (UTC)
This. NK's MO is all about getting involved in 6-party talks, then suddenly withdrawing, tweaking out and firing a test missile, then then total silence, then some crazy rhetoric, then entering the process again for a few months...
purekpopology 9th-Jan-2013 12:12 am (UTC)
NK has always reminded me of a little kid that's kicking and screaming for attention. "Look at me!!! I'm important!!! I'm big and scary too!!! Look at MY missles!!!"
atelierlune 9th-Jan-2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
ayumikoshiro 8th-Jan-2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
What if Google buys NK and creates it's own Super Country/Serverland. Forget the cleanup and aftermath but hey it's plausible PayPal tried/is trying to buy their own island/Utopia
unicornios 9th-Jan-2013 12:03 am (UTC)
omfg lol
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