Schmidt urges North Korea to open up to the internet

Google Exec warns dictatorship of restricting access

Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, has returned from his visit to North Korea, where he warned Kim Jong-un that continuing to restrict internet access could damage the country’s economy.

Google’s Executive Chairman has returned from his ‘private humanitarian mission' to North Korea, after urging them to open up to the internet and mobile phone use.

Speaking in Beijing after his four-day visit to North Korea, Eric Schmidt, alongside the former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson said: “As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth, and it will make it harder for them to catch up economically.”

Schmidt’s visit has previously caused controversy, with the US state department criticising Schmidt and Richardson’s visit as “unhelpful” as it is attempting to pressure the regime into abandoning ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program.

"Frankly we don't think the timing of this is particularly helpful, but they are private citizens and they are making their own decisions," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "They are well aware of our views."

The country is one of the last few in the world that continue to restrict its citizen’s access to the internet and mobile phones. The majority of the country’s mobile phones are restricted to the country’s political, military and commercial elites.

North Korea currently only has access to its own intranet, but it is not interconnected with the rest of the world, with only a small number of people including government officials, senior scientists and university students allowed access.