Eric Schmidt of Google watches North Koreans surf the Internet

Featured - January 9th, 2013

Google’s top executive Eric Schmidt had a first-hand look at how North Koreans access the Internet in the tightly-controlled reclusive state.

Kicking off his four-day visit to North Korea, Mr. Schmidt along with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson led their delegation to a tour of the computer lab at the Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, where few privileged students were seen scouring the Internet.

The North Korean students also showed how they looked for information online – using Google.

While most North Koreans have access to a domestic Intranet service which allows them to read state-run media online, only a handful can access the full web. Pyongyang strictly regulates Internet use to shield them from foreign influences.

Mr. Schmidt traveled to the impoverished state on a “private, humanitarian mission” despite criticism from Washington over the timing of the trip in the wake of Pyongyang’s long-range rocket launch.

Richardson said the visit was aimed at securing the release of detained Americans. Korea expert Kun “Tony” Namkung, said talks between Richardson and North Korean officials was “a good, productive but frank meeting” without further elaborating.