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Breaking Silence, Eric Schmidt Says North Korea Needs Internet Freedom

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, January 11 2013

Eric Schmidt has broken his radio silence on the subject of his North Korea trip. After returning to Beijing yesterday, Schmidt spoke frankly to members of the press, saying that it’s time for the DPRK to implement Internet freedoms:

“Once the Internet starts, citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do something. They have to make it possible for people to use the Internet, which the government of North Korea has not yet done.”

The Google executive appealed to economic concerns of the isolated country, saying that Internet openness will allow North Korea to gain ground in a complex world economy:

“It's their choice now, and in my view it's time for them to start, or they will remain behind.”

Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who had formerly acted as the spokesperson for the trip, confirmed earlier this week that encouraging open Internet practices in North Korea was one goal of the humanitarian visit, in addition to negotiating for the release of an American citizen who is currently detained in the country. How these suggestions will be acted on by the North Korean government remains to be seen; as the Wall Street Journal reported, so far official state reports on the American delegation have made no mention of the Internet, focusing instead on Schmidt and Richardson’s visits to the Kim Il Sung mausoleum and universities in Pyongyang.

In the meantime, Time has a useful gallery of Schmidt engaging in the celebrated North Korean practice of looking at things.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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