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Google's Eric Schmidt to visit North Korea on private trip

January 02, 2013|By Jessica Guynn | This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
  • Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt arrives in September for a seminar at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Schmidt is preparing to travel North Korea on a private trip led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt arrives in September for a seminar… (Lee Jin-man / Associated…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Eric Schmidt, Google's ambassador in chief, is going where few Internet executives have gone: North Korea.

Google's executive chairman will take part in a private trip led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, sources told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

North Korea does not have diplomatic relations with the United States, and it has some of the tightest restrictions of any country on citizens' access to the Internet. But Richardson, an expert in negotiating with North Korea, has long sought to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula. And Schmidt has become a vocal advocate for Internet freedom.

Richardson could not be immediately reached for comment.

[Updated 12:17 p.m., Jan. 2: A Google spokeswoman said the company does not comment on its executives' personal travel.]

The private trip comes just weeks after the U.N. Security Council condemned North Korea for launching a satellite that it said was a test of long-range ballistic missile technology that could carry far-reaching nuclear warheads. An American citizen of Korean descent has also been detained in Pyongyang on suspicion of "hostile" acts against the state. Richardson has twice before negotiated the release of Americans detained by North Korea.

It would be the first time that a top Google executive visited the country, which new leader Kim Jong Un has said is embarking on a new "industrial revolution," with an emphasis on using technology to spur economic development.

In April 2011, a group of 12 lower-level North Korean officials paid a visit to Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

After handing off the reins as chief executive of Google to co-founder Larry Page, Schmidt has become the company's liaison to governments and policy makers around the world.

He also teamed with Jared Cohen, a former U.S. State Department policy and planning advisor, on a Google think tank that is focused on how the Internet can help tackle society's most intractable problems including poverty and oppression. Schmidt also has written a book, "The New Digital Age," due in April.

And he knows some impressive "Gangnam" dance moves that he learned from Psy in Google's Seoul headquarters.

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Follow me on Twitter @jguynn

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