Google's Eric Schmidt, former governor Bill Richardson, and the other members of a humanitarian trip to North Korea are pushing a message of online freedom, at least within the strict confines of the current regime. According to the Associated Press, Richardson says his group has given a message to "a variety of foreign policy officials, scientists," and government officials: "The citizens of the DPRK [North Korea] will be better off with more cellphones and an active internet." North Korea has relaxed its hold on technology slightly in recent years, leading to a jump in cellphone ownership and even a domestic Android tablet, but internet access is very strictly controlled (most of North Korea's few computer users can only access a domestic intranet) and consumer electronics generally are limited to a select few.
Richardson didn't detail exactly what he and Schmidt said or how their comments were received, either regarding the internet or the other goals of the trip: urging humane treatment of an imprisoned American citizen and a halt to missile and nuclear tests. Schmidt, meanwhile, has been clear that despite his interest in North Korean technological development, this is "not a Google trip."
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