Thursday, June 21, 2018

Google exec gets look at North Koreans using Internet

Students at North Korea's premier university showed Google's executive chairman how they look for information online: They Google it.

But surfing the Internet that way is the privilege of only a very few in North Korea, whose authoritarian government imposes strict limits on access to the Web.

Google's Eric Schmidt got a first look at North Korea's limited Internet usage when an American delegation he and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson are leading visited a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang on Tuesday. Other members of the delegation on the unusual four-day trip include Schmidt's daughter, Sophie, and Jared Cohen, director of the Google Ideas think tank.

Schmidt, who is the highest-profile U.S. business executive to visit North Korea since leader Kim Jong Un took power a year ago, has not spoken publicly about the reasons behind the journey to North Korea. Richardson has called the trip a "private, humanitarian" mission by U.S. citizens and has sought to allay concerns in Washington.

Schmidt and Cohen chatted with students working on HP desktop computers at an "e-library" at the university named after North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. One student showed Schmidt how he accesses reading materials from Cornell University online on a computer.

"He's actually going to a Cornell site," Schmidt told Richardson after peering at the URL.

Cohen asked a student how he searches online. The student clicked on Google — "That's where I work!" Cohen said — and then asked to be able to type in his own search: "New York City."

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