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.