AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Friday 11 January 2013
Last update 11 January 2013 3:57 am
BEIJING: Google chairman Eric Schmidt said yesterday he had told North Korea it would not develop unless it embraces Internet freedom, as he returned from a controversial visit to the communist state.
Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations who led the trip, said he called on Pyongyang to adopt a moratorium on ballistic missile and nuclear tests following its widely criticized rocket launch last month.
Talks were also held about an American citizen who is being detained in the country, he told reporters at Beijing airport, after speculation that he could return with the man, Kenneth Bae.
Efforts to “strongly urge” North Korea, a highly secretive and tightly controlled country, to increase the use of the Internet were “the main success of the visit”, the former New Mexico governor said.
Schmidt said he told North Korean officials they should open up the country’s Internet “or they will remain behind”.
“As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth, and it will make it harder for them to catch up economically,” Schmidt said.
“Once the Internet starts, citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it. The government has to do something. It has to make it possible for people to use the Internet which the government in North Korea has not yet done.”
The North has a domestic Intranet service with a very limited number of users. Analysts say access to the Internet is for the super-elite only, meaning a few hundred people or maybe 1,000 at most.
Last week in a surprise New Year address North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said improving the economy through science and technology was a key goal.
But experts said Internet freedom in the tightly controlled country was a distant possibility.