Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the world’s biggest internet search group, arrived in North Korea on Monday despite criticism from Washington over the timing of the trip.
The executive from Google is the highest-profile US executive to visit the reclusive state – having no diplomatic relations with the US – which is notorious for its restrictive online policies.
Mr. Schmidt wants a first-hand look at North Korea’s economy and social media during his four-day visit, his delegation told the AP, adding that he was visiting in his personal capacity.
The Google chairman was accompanied by former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who has traveled to North Korea several times, and dismissed criticism from Washington.
The US State Department criticized the plan last week as Washington sought to maintain pressure on Pyongyang following a long-range rocket launch.
Mr. Richardson described the trip as a “humanitarian mission” aimed at securing the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American detained on unspecified charges in November while leading a tour group, reports the Financial Times.
“This is not a Google trip, but I’m sure he’s interested in some of the economic issues there, [and] the social media aspect. This is why we are teamed up on this,” Richardson said.
Mr. Schidmt, an advocate of Internet connectivity and openness, is also expected to make a donation during the visit. North Koreans mostly have access to a domestic Intranet system while Internet use is heavily regulated.