I don’t question that Google’s Schmidt means well. But if he wants to better acquaint himself with North Korea’s plans for social media, then North Korea is probably not the best place to be asking questions. There is more illuminating information to be gleaned from such items as news reports (easily found on google) on North Korea’s cyber attacks on South Korean and U.S. web sites — including attacks on U.S. government sites. Or from testimony of experts such as the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, General James Thurman, who testified just last year to the House Armed Services Committee, as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, that “North Korea employs sophisticated computer hackers trained to launch cyber infiltration and cyber attacks.”
Or, consider the congressional testimony last march of North Korea expert Col. David Maxwell (Ret.), of Georgetown University, who explained, based on observations of North Korea’s current behavior, that if North Korea attacks South Korea, the North can be expected to make “extensive use of cyber capabilities,” not only against South Korea, but “globally targeted.” That would likely include not only cyber attacks on South Korean military networks, but an exploitation of “the full range of cyber capabilities to include social media to support their propaganda efforts.” Maxwell elaborated: “They will not only introduce false information (to include photos and video) to the internet, they will provide information to international news organizations to affect public opinion in [South Korea] and around the world.”
Such are the ways of the North Korean regime now hosting Google’s Schmidt, who reportedly wants to learn about North Korea’s social media. The real issue here is, what are North Korea’s rulers hoping to gain from Google? If Schmidt really wants to test their intentions firsthand, he could always propose offering unfettered internet and gmail access to the political prisoners of North Korea’s Stalinesque gulag — and see how that idea plays in today’s technology loving Pyongyang. Though, in the unlikely event he tries that, he’d better be ready to find himself on the receiving end of Richardson’s next trip to try to ransom yet another American held hostage by the shakedown experts of North Korea.