As if there isn’t enough trouble in the world, the executive chairman of Google Inc., Eric Schmidt, has taken it into his head to visit North Korea. Schmidt is touring the world’s leading totalitarian state as a member of a private group led by a former U.S. congressman, cabinet secretary, United Nations ambassador and New Mexico governor rolled into one, Bill Richardson — whose previous trips to North Korea have served mainly to dignify the Pyongyang regime.
Richardson’s current roadshow, with Google’s Schmidt in tow, seems to have generated some excitement at North Korea’s state propaganda organ, the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA. KCNA has revamped its web site, including a new gmail contact address (though the address apparently doesn’t work) and more colorful variations on the same old propaganda, including a special section on North Korea’s recent
ballistic missile test “Successful Satellite Launch.” The site also features such classics as an account of the launch in Ecuador of the works of third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un, glorifying the revolutionary accomplishments of his late father, tyrant Kim Jong Il, and his grandfather, the Stalin-installed founder of the North Korean state, Kim Il Sung. On this same retooled KCNA web site, the private visit led by Richardson is heralded as “Delegation of Google Corp. of U.S. Arrives.”
Schmidt has been secretive about what exactly he hopes to accomplish on this trip. Richardson, who wants to meet with an American that North Korea, as part of its chronic shakedown racket, is now holding hostage in its prison system, has hinted to the press that Schmidt is tagging along to North Korea because he is “interested in some of the economic issues there, and the social media aspect.”
If anything here sounds like the beginning of some glorious new era in which North Korea is about to throw open its digital gates to the world wide web, and invite the starving inmates of Kim’s gulag to post their personal opinions on Facebook, think again. North Korea’s regime loves technology — but on its own terms, for carefully restricted use, for specially selected purposes, which boil down to keeping the Kim regime in power. North Korean officials are expert at hornswoggling American dreamers who arrive in Pyongyang hoping to promote some peace-loving bargain, from former president Jimmy Carter in 1994, to the New York Philharmonic, which, between North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests, serenaded the Pyongyang elite in 2008.