In plain sight: are Corporate Executives spearheading Global Policies?
Bankers, Investor capitalists, Industrialists, and now Information System Technologies executives implementing foreign policy?
Google chairman heading to North Korea
FILE – In this Sept. 28, 2012 file photo, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt arrives for a seminar at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Schmidt is preparing to travel to one of the last frontiers of cyberspace: North Korea. He will be traveling to North Korea on a private trip led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that could take place as early as this month, sources told The Associated Press on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The sources, two people familiar with the group’s plans, asked not to be named because the visit had not been made public. Lee Jin-man, File / AP Photo
By JEAN H. LEE and YOUKYUNG LEE
SEOUL, South Korea — When he lands in North Korea, even Google’s executive chairman will likely have to relinquish his smartphone, leaving him disconnected from the global information network he helped build.
Eric Schmidt is a staunch advocate of global Internet access and the power of Internet connectivity in lifting people out of poverty and political oppression. This month, he plans to travel to the country with the world’s most restrictive Internet policies, where locals need government permission to interact with foreigners – in person, by phone or by email – and only a tiny portion of the elite class is connected to the Internet.
But his visit may be a sign of Pyongyang’s growing desire to engage with the outside world. North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, talks about using science and technology to jump start the country’s moribund economy, even if it means turning to experts from enemy nations for help.
In recent years, “North Korea has made a lot of investment in science and technology, not just for military purpose but also for the industry and practical reasons,” said Lim Eul-chul, a professor at South Korea’s Kyungnam University.
Google’s intentions in North Korea are not clear. Two people familiar with the plans told The Associated Press that the trip was a “private, humanitarian mission.” They asked not to be named, saying the delegation has not made the trip public. Schmidt will be traveling with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a seasoned envoy, and Kun “Tony” Namkung, a Korea expert with long ties to North Korea.
“Perhaps the most intriguing part of this trip is simply the idea of it,” Victor Cha, an Asia expert who traveled to North Korea with Richardson in 2007, wrote in a blog post for the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.
Kim Jong Un “clearly has a penchant for the modern accoutrements of life. If Google is the first small step in piercing the information bubble in Pyongyang, it could be a very interesting development.”
But this trip will probably be less about opening up North Korea’s Internet than about discussing information technology, Lim said. North Korea may be more interested in Google services such as email and mapping, as well as software development, than in giving its people Internet access, he said.
Kim Jong Un, who took power a year ago, has stressed the need to build North Korea’s economy.
In the early 1970s, communist North Korea had the stronger economy of the two Koreas. But North Korea’s economy stagnated in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union as the regime resisted the shift toward capitalism in the world around it.
By 2011, North Korea’s national income per capita languished at about $1,200 while South Korea’s was $23,467, according to the Bank of Korea in Seoul.
And as the Internet began connecting the world – a movement South Korea embraced – North Korea reinforced its moat of security. Travelers arriving in Pyongyang are ordered to leave their cellphones at the airport and all devices are checked for satellite communications. Foreigners and locals are required to seek permission before interacting – in person, by phone or by email.
However, leader Kim Jong Un declared Monday that North Korea is in the midst of a modern-day “industrial revolution.” He is pushing science and technology as a path to economic development for the impoverished country, aiming for computers in every school and digitized machinery in every factory. More than 1.5 million people in North Korea now use cellphones with 3G technology.
But giving citizens open access to the Internet has not been part of the North’s strategy. While some North Koreans can access a domestic Intranet service, only a select few have clearance to freely surf the World Wide Web.
Schmidt speaks frequently about the importance of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology.
As Google’s chief executive for a decade until 2011, Schmidt oversaw Google’s ascent from a small California startup focused on helping computer users search the Internet to a global technology giant. Google now has offices in more than 40 countries, including all three of North Korea’s neighbors: Russia, South Korea and China, another country criticized for systematic Internet censorship.
After being accused of complying with China’s strict Internet regulations, Google pulled its search business from the world’s largest Internet market in 2010 by redirecting traffic from mainland China to Hong Kong.
In April, Schmidt and Jared Cohen, a former U.S. State Department policy and planning adviser who heads Google’s New York-based think tank, will publish a book about the Internet’s role in shaping society called “The New Digital Age.”
Son Jae-kwon, a visiting scholar at Stanford, compared Schmidt to Chung Ju-yung, the late founder of the South Korean conglomerate Hyundai who strode across the DMZ dividing the two Koreas with a pack of cattle in 1998.
But this time, it’s computer technology, not cows.
“Internet is the cattle of the 21st century,” Son said. “It is what North Korea needs most.”
The Richardson-Schmidt trip comes at a delicate time politically. In December, North Korea defiantly shot a satellite into space on the back of a three-stage rocket, a launch Pyongyang has hailed as a major step in its quest for peaceful exploration of space.
Washington and others, however, decry it as a covert test of long-range ballistic missile technology designed to send a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California. The U.N. Security Council quickly condemned the launch, and is deliberating whether to further punish Pyongyang for violating bans on developing its nuclear and missile programs.
The visit also follows North Korea’s announcement that an American citizen has been jailed in Pyongyang on suspicion of committing “hostile” acts against the state. Richardson will try to address his detainment, the sources said.
Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations. North Korea and the U.S. fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War before signing a truce in 1953.
However, North Korea has indicated interest in repairing relations with Washington.
In 2011, a group of North Korean economists and diplomats visited Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
And North Korean-affiliated agencies already use at least one Google product to get state propaganda out to the world: YouTube.
State Dept. in a Snit Over Schmidt’s North Korea Trip
Jan 4, 2013
Today in international tech news: The U.S. State Department isn’t all that impressed with Eric Schmidt’s upcoming trip to North Korea, Megaupload claims that authorities lied to obtain search warrants, and China makes like the EU and U.S. by levying huge fines against LCD panel makers.
The U.S. State Department gave a measured but clear rebuke of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s upcoming trip to North Korea.
News broke this week that Schmidt will join former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson on a humanitarian mission to the impoverished nation. The itinerary and exact purpose of the trip has not been revealed, but enough is known for the State Department to give a verbal roll of the eyes.
“We don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, according to the BBC. She went on to say that both Schmidt and Richardson were “well aware” of the government’s stance on their trip.
As could be expected in a country staunchly opposed to free speech, Internet use in North Korea is stifled. The nation has an Intranet, but it doesn’t allow citizens to access the World Wide Web at large — and certainly doesn’t allow for unencumbered Google searches.
Richardson has been involved in ad-hoc negotiations with North Korea for two decades, according to the BBC. He has helped with the release of Americans detained by North Korea, although it’s not clear whether or not that’s the impetus for the upcoming trip.
North Korea last month arrested a U.S. citizen on unspecified charges.
A member of the South Korea-based Asia Foundation told Reuters that the trip could be part of a “broader vision to bring the Internet to the world.” Google, though, has not commented.
Megaupload: US Lied to Get Warrants
File-sharing site Megaupload, which was shut down by U.S. authorities a year ago, claims that the U.S. government lied to obtain search warrants for computer servers in Virginia that belonged to the site, according to Bloomberg.
Megaupload was reportedly approached by U.S. officials who were seeking cooperation in its investigation. However, in a filing in a Virginia court, the company claims it was unaware that it was the target of the investigation. The filing also says that the government “deliberately misled” the court which granted the search warrants.
Around the same time Megaupload was seized last January, the site’s founder, German-born Kim Dotcom, was arrested in New Zealand, where he had obtained citizenship. He is currently holed up there awaiting a hearing on his requested extradition to the U.S.
Last June, a New Zealand judge ruled that the warrants used on the raid of Dotcom’s home were invalid. Then, in September, a different judge issued an apology to Dotcom because an enforcement agency that spied on him was only authorized to investigate foreigners and Dotcom, indeed, is a New Zealand citizen.
U.S. authorities claim Megaupload generated some US$175 million. Charges against the site, which facilitated piracy of movies, music and television shows, include racketeering, money laundering, copyright infringement and wire fraud.
Dotcom has announced plans to launch a successor to Megaupload.
China Fines LCD Makers for Price-Fixing
China’s National Development and Reform Commission said that the fines stem from the companies’ attempt to overcharge flat-screen TV manufacturers in China.
Among the accused is Taiwan’s AU Optronics. In September, a U.S. court fined the company $500 million, also for fixing prices of LCD panels. The European Union, too, has fined LCD panel manufacturers, having handed down an $860 million ruling in late 2010. In that case, AU Optronics was hit with a roughly $150 million tab.
China claims that the six accused manufacturers garnered $34 million in “illegitimate profit” from components used in more than 5 million LCD screens.
In addition to AU Optronics, the Chinese case mentions both Samsung and LG.