Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, is likely to visit North Korea on a private, humanitarian mission, sources said Thursday.
A Seoul official confirmed an Associated Press report that Schmidt will travel to the reclusive country along with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
“He planned to visit North Korea earlier but the schedule was delayed in consideration of the sensitive mood to do with the North’s long-range rocket launch,” a Seoul official said.
“I understand the visit is purely for a private purpose and has no bearings with business,” he added.
Citing two unnamed people familiar with the group’s plans, the AP reported Schmidt’s planned visit could take place as early as this month. It was not clear who they would meet in North Korea.
Victor Cha, a Korea expert who was a senior Asia specialist in the administration of President George W. Bush, was quoted as saying that Google may push to launch a business venture in North Korea.
“Perhaps the most intriguing part of this trip is simply the idea of it,” said Cha, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.
He added that North Korean leader 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.”
The visit also follows North Korea’s announcement that Korean-American tourist Kenneth Bae was detained in Pyongyang on charges of crimes against the state. Former Governor Richardson has led missions to negotiate the release of detained Americans in the past.
The Google executive chairman is currently responsible for its external relationships with governments and business partners, the AP said.
(From news reports)