John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

North Korea to Google Chairman: Rock On, Dude

EricSchmidt_D5Add another title to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s already impressive resume: rock star diplomat. The executive traveled to North Korea earlier this month and, according to former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson who accompanied him, was received there like “a rock star” — or considering the country, the frontman of a popular military choir.

“Eric Schmidt was like a rock star there,” Richardson told CNN. “Talking to people, to students, to scientists, to software engineers about the importance of the Internet.”

The pair traveled to North Korea earlier this month — over the protests of the U.S. State Department — to advocate a moratorium on missile launches, to call for greater Internet freedom for North Korean citizens and ostensibly to facilitate the release of American detainee Kenneth Bae. On the last matter, the “private humanitarian mission” seems to have been a failure. On the others, it remains to be seen, though I doubt we’ll see North Korea throw open the doors to the Internet anytime soon. But evidently Schmidt was awesome while he was there, and that’s something, right?

Said Richardson, “… Right now our relationship with North Korea is frozen and if some individuals, private citizens, especially someone like Eric Schmidt, who can bring a message of openness and hope and the Internet and cellphones and more communications, and be treated as someone they’re intensely interested in. Remember, we met with students, with average people — it wasn’t just the government.”

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle