|By Maureen O'Gara||
|January 14, 2013 08:00 AM EST||
When Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt returned to Beijing Thursday from his controversial three-day "private visit" to North Korea he said that he told officials in Pyongyang that they must open the country up to Internet access or it would be "harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very, very clear."
The Internet is only accessible to the government, military and universities. Its use is monitored. There's a national intranet with an information portal. The Internet isn't accessible through the country's cellular network although Schmidt said it could be modified. Evidently it services about one million phones out of a population of about 25 million.
Apparently the nine-person delegation's technical agenda was the most productive. Former New Mexico governor and US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson told the press that North Korean officials appeared open to technological exchanges.
The group did not meet with the country's dictator Kim Jong Un and Richardson failed to make any headway on the political front or obtain the release of an American citizen who is being held there. Apparently he didn't even see him.
Google pulled out of Mainland China and moved to Hong Kong over Chinese censorship and cyber attacks. Schmidt indicated any plans that the company might have for North Korea would depend on people being able to use the Internet.
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