Google in North Korea

Google is a household name around the globe – at least in households with regular internet access. It’s even a verb in foreign languages. Now, Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt is in North Korea to… well, no one really knows. Maybe he’s there to get the Google Maps car better access to the driveway of this “Covert Runway“.  He might be there to try the North Korean style nang-myun he’s heard so much about from his Bay Area foodie friends, but a few days into his visit and it’s still a mystery.

The “official” story is that he’s accompanying former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, on a humanitarian mission to negotiate the release of a Korean American hostage. CEOs are the new influential world leaders, so I suppose it’s possible, but somehow I think Schmidt lacks that Clinton charm that helped to free Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

Some believe that Schmidt is there to urge Kim Jong Un to ease restrictions on internet and data access. Others believe there’s a different agenda. North Korea is a new frontier when it comes to Google style information sharing. Schmidt will likely learn at least a tiny bit about the future of digital media in the new regime, and he may be looking for a foothold. Five years of Google in communist China didn’t pan out quite the way everyone had hoped though. How will North Korea handle the world’s largest search engine? Will Google+ and its Google Hangouts help re-unite the peninsula? All I know is that if any of the Kim boys want to add me to their circles, I’m SO adding them back.