Bill Richardson and Eric Schmidt’s Bogus Journey to North Korea

Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt and Bill Richardson, the former Democratic governor of New Mexico, returned from a four day trip to North Korea the U.S. State Department described as “ill advised.” Originally planned for December, it was postponed because of North Korea’s missile launch. For his part, while there this week, Richardson, who previously visited North Korea two years ago, called for a moratorium on missile launches. There trying to secure the release of American Kenneth Bae, Richardson was unable even to see Bae, though he says he got assurances from the North Koreans about the prisoner’s condition. Presumably they told Richardson Bae wasn’t being held in one of the country’s gulags, which have actually been mapped out by activists with the help of Google Earth.

Richardson also touted the “unilateral dialogue” between scientists in North Korea and the U.S. while Schmidt explained his view that because isolation from the Internet will lead to negative consequences in the real world economy, the government of North Korea actually had to “make it possible for people to use the Internet,” something he acknowledged they had “not yet done.” Given that North Korea hasn’t been able to make it possible for its people to eat enough, the hope its government can do something about internet access seems as fruitless as this trip, which Kim Jong Un is sure to use to appear as a high-tech leader.

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  • ||

    Is that Bill Richardson on the right? ...Is he...painted brown?

  • BakedPenguin||

    He got very tan under that blazing Pyongyang sun, apparently.

  • Randian||

    They don't have any tax on tanning beds in Dear Leader's Palace.

  • ||

    I don't see the harm in it. Any kind of contact with the people of North Korea helps to gather and convey information.
    The degree of isolation and secrecy of the government is such that the North Korean people literally have no idea how backward they are. So the mere sight of a cell phone is enough to transmit the message to them that their government is lying to them.

    One might think that the N. Korean government would use the visit for propaganda purposes, but that loses sight of all the subtle ways that any sort of contact with the outside world is going to both allow us to estimate the state of the country, and convey implicit hints to North Koreas about what's actually happening.

    For all we know, Richardson and Schmidt could be sending coded signals to dissedents every time the scrtach their noses. Anything that helps even a tiny bit is a benefit.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They're actually getting more and more info on the outside world. Read a few of these articles. Cell phones, while not "common", are used by a lot of party functionaries and traders. Also, as I posted yesterday, crystal meth use is widespread, even among security personnel. Some have speculated that it could be the ultimate cause of the end of the government.

  • Drake||

    If I lived in NK, I be snorting every drug I could get my hands on.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I have to agree. It's kind of ironic, since they originally started making the drug for export (hard currency during sanctions). At some point, someone started selling it in country, and that's a genie you're not going to put back in the bottle. Some of the usage estimates are crazy, like 40-50% of adults in Pyongyang.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

  • ||

    The degree of isolation and secrecy of the government is such that the North Korean people literally have no idea how backward they are.

    I remember reading an article (probably here) about a North Korean who escaped to China and when he first got over to China he found a bowl sitting on the porch of a Chinese house with some rice and meat in it.

    He had no idea what it was doing there.

    It was only later that he figured out it was the dog dish...and he observed that China fed its pets better then North Korea fed its people.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They are starting to learn. DVDs from the South, and from China, are watched by a lot of the people. It hasn't escaped their attention that everyone in them looks rich in comparison to them.

    If the regime collapses in the next two or three years, I won't be entirely surprised.

  • ||

    Except the people in 'Beasts of the Southern Wild', maybe.

    Someday, there will be a whole genre of North Korean poverty porn.

    Also, they have DVD players in North Korea? They LET bootleg DVDs enter the country?

  • BakedPenguin||

    If you know who to bribe, you can get stuff inside the country. Most of the DVDs they watch are Chinese or Russian (from the communist eras) and have been officially vetted (and possibly censored). DVD players can be legally owned there, but not the South Korean movies. Still, they get around samizdata style.

  • ||

    I read the book "We have nothing to Envy" and it had that story in it.

    It wasn't just the North Korean people. The person was a doctor (from Pongyang I think), so Chinese dogs eat better than NK doctors.

  • Aresen||

    "because isolation from the Internet will lead to negative consequences in the real world economy, the government of North Korea actually had to “make it possible for people to use the Internet,”

    Right.

    "See this internet thing? It's really neat. It will allow your people to see how fucked over they've been and how people in various countries have used it to overthrow their government."

    The "People's Republic" may be thugish and brutal, but they're not THAT dumb.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Bill Richardson does have some large pants. I realize that in the past he has been able to sneak some pretty sensitive things past security in those suckers but a whole person? Absurd.

  • A Serious Man||

    Given that North Korea hasn’t been able to make it possible for its people to eat enough, the hope its government can do something about internet access seems as fruitless as this trip, which Kim Jong Un is sure to use to appear as a high-tech leader.

    Well do you have any idea how fucking busy he is?! Just like dad was!

    But really, if the US gives the Norks anything Junior will just tell the people that it was a gift or a tribute from the US to the greatness of the North Korean state.

  • Tim||

    No gun violence and no fat people.

  • crazyfingers||

    North Korea, liberal paradise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L088WJ9c98

  • Sevo||

    So does that woman believe what she spouts? Or does she hope her lies to be believed?
    Stupid or evil?

  • Sevo||

    What is a "unilateral dialogue"?

  • ||

    Did he use his left hand or right hand to have a unilateral dialogue?

  • R C Dean||

    We have them all the time here. Look, especially, for subthreads under "T o n y".

  • db||

    I think it's diplomat-speak for "industrial espionage."

  • ||

    My friend had a idea. South Korea has like 1000 times the GDP of NK. They ought to just buy NK. Offer them like 1 day of SK GDP.

  • Aresen||

    Actually, the South Koreans are dreading the day when the North Korean regime collapses.

    The cost of integrating it with the South will make the cost of German reunification look like chump change.

  • Sevo||

    "The cost of integrating it with the South will make the cost of German reunification look like chump change."

    And you can bet that the Chi Coms, who are largely to blame for the existence of NK will be as broke as the Soviets were when they lost control over central Europe.
    But they meant well, right?

  • ||

    According to the labor theory of value that shouldn't be a problem.

    But seriously, it doesn't have to cost anything. The German approach was for the government to shovel tons of DMs east to beef up the infrastructure, "encourage jobs", etc. But ultimately that had a retarding effect which is why there is still higher unemployment in the east. Cheap labor and cheap land should be enough to attract private investment as it did here in the Czech Republic which didn't receive all that government largesse like East Germany.

  • Jerry on the road||

    Plus the East had to deal with the Deutschmark, which made them uncompetitive. Also unions in the West didn't want to see cheap labor competition.

  • db||

    At a former employer, I purchased a several million dollar system from a German company. They sent specialists over to assist with and oversee the installation. They were from the former East Germany, and told me how there are still wage controls in place that ensure that East Germans get paid less then West Germans. The reunification law was supposed to eventually get wages to parity but it has been amended several times and pace has been slowed down. Just what I heard.

  • db||

    I like how they're wearing scarves indoors. It reminds me of my trips to China in the winter, when everything is freezing indoors and out. Why they even bother to put doors on buildings is beyond me, as many offices I visited were being passively ventilated by leaving doors and windows open to the freezing December air. One conference room had been thoughtfully hosed out (no shit--there were still puddles on the floor) just before our meeting and there were thoughtfully placed book slots ashtrays under the table level at every seat.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh, I thought this was about the new Bill & Ted movie.

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