Google chairman Eric Schmidt and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson visited a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang today as part of their four-day visit.
According to Bloomberg, Schmidt and Richardson left Beijing on Jan. 7 for Pyongyang to lead a nine-person American delegation. The group includes Jared Cohen, a former State Department official who founded Google Ideas, and Tony Namkung, an adviser to Richardson.
Richardson announced when leaving for Pyongyang yesterday that the delegation trip was not a Google trip: ”We are going to ask about the American who’s been detained,” he said. “A humanitarian private visit.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. State Department called the timing of their visit “unhelpful.” There’s no additional information about what they plan to do in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, otherwise known as North Korea, but the above video and subsequent report by the Associated Press gives an inside look:
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Schmidt and Cohen chatted with students working on HP desktop computers at an “e-library” at the university named after North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. One student showed Schmidt how he accesses reading materials from Cornell University online on a computer with a red tag denoting it as a gift from Kim Jong Il.
“He’s actually going to a Cornell site,” Schmidt told Richardson after peering at the URL.
Librarian Kim Su Hyang said students at Kim Il Sung University have had Internet access since April 2010, but it is strictly monitored. Students are only allowed to access educational materials, as the computers at Pyongyang’s main library at the Grand People’s Study house are connected to a domestic Intranet service that displays a collection of reading materials hand-picked by North Korean officials.
The Associated Press report noted North Koreans can sign up for the Intranet service, but access to public Internet is “extremely rare and often is limited to those with clearance to get on the Internet.”