News Column

'Humanitarian Mission' to North Korea Has Tech Slant, State Bent

Jan. 8, 2013

Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 0621 08 Jan 13

Eric Schmidt
Google's Eric Schmidt

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and his delegation visiting North Korea may pay a visit to North Korea's prestigious technology university in Pyongyang during their four- day trip, according to sources Tuesday [8 January].

The chairman of one of the world's biggest Internet companies and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson arrived in the North via Beijing late Monday on what the former governor said is "a private humanitarian mission."

While Richardson indicated he wants to secure the release of an American being detained in the North, news outlets have raised speculations that the Google chairman may seek business opportunities in the North's closely-regulated information technology sector.

The sources in Beijing said Kim Chin-kyung, the president of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), joined Schmidt's team of several staff members in Beijing and boarded the Air China flight to Pyongyang with them.

They said it is believed Kim will escort them to the technology- oriented university and likely brief them on the school's teaching environment for the IT sector.

Kim, a US citizen, is known for his activities promoting education in the North and made major contributions to the founding of PUST, the North's only private school. Set up jointly by the North and a South Korean foundation, the school opened for its first semester in 2010. Foreign professors give lectures at PUST in the sectors of IT, biotechnology, trading and the English language.

Kim frequently travels between the North and the US and also contributed to the founding of a science university in Yanbian, China.

The schedule of their four-day trip is not known although Richardson said during his Beijing transfer that the delegation will meet with North Korean political and economic leaders and "will visit some universities."

He also said Schmidt is surely interested in some economic issues, including "the social media aspect."

Some analysts predicted the Google chairman, strongly believing in the social power of Internet connectivity, would come up with ways to help support the university, where rare access to international Internet sites, including Google, is allowed almost exclusively.

The visit, meanwhile, came only a few weeks after the North conducted an internationally-denounced long-range rocket launch, which the outside world suspects was a pretext to test the country's ballistic missile technology.

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Source: (C) 2013 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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