Google's Schmidt and daughter spill the beans on North Korean trip

Google's Schmidt and daughter spill the beans on North Korean trip

Summary: Staying in hotel rooms that were probably bugged, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt chose to sleep with the door open, according to his daughter, Sophie.


Eric Schmidt's daughter Sophie joined the Google executive chairman on his recent diplomatic tour of North Korea, and the two have separately posted their thoughts on the country, which Sophie summed up as "like The Truman Show, at country scale."

Eric Schmidt
Google's Eric Schmidt and his daughter Sophie have written up accounts of their recent trip to North Korea.
(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Despite three separate "internets"--a supervised one, the country's intranet, and a university network--North Koreans are still unable to access and use the internet freely. During his trip, Schmidt said he told North Korean officials that its closed internet would be a major barrier to the technology-constrained nation's chances of economic growth. 

"We made that alternative very, very clear. Once the internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do one thing: open up the internet first," he wrote on his Google+ page on Sunday.

"They have to make it possible for people to use the internet, which the government of North Korea has not yet done. It is their choice now, and in my view, it's time for them to start, or they will remain behind."

Schmidt noted that although there is a 3G network in North Korea, it does not support data access. 

Schmidt's daughter Sophie offered a far more colourful and detailed account of the tour on her blog, commenting that the nine people who made up the delegation were advised to leave their phones and laptops in China, since they would be confiscated and likely infected with malware.

Another reality, once inside North Korea, was that their hotel rooms would most likely be bugged. "My father's reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open," she wrote.

"Since we didn't have cell phones or alarm clocks, the question of how we'd wake up on time in the morning was legitimate. One person suggested announcing 'I'm awake' to the room, and then waiting until someone came to fetch you."

The delegation took a tour of North Korea's "Korea Computer Center"--a "deranged version of the Consumer Electronics Show," according to Sophie, which has produced an Android tablet no average North Korean citizen can actually afford.

Some interesting tech questions Eric Schmidt fielded included: "When is the next version of Android coming out?" and "Can you help us with e-Settlement so that we can put North Korean apps on Android Market?"

Topics: Google, Android, Security, Smartphones

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • lol!

    a deranged version of the CES!!!

    Colorful Sophie :)
  • A pointless vist and a pointless piece

    Where are the promised beans? as for what Schmidt's daughter thinks who cares? And Schmidt hinting at government intrusion as a bad thing! Pot Kettle Black if ever I saw it.
    • who cares about Schmidt's daughter?

      A lot more than the number of people who care what "oracle57" thinks.
    • poor baby

      someone woke up on the wrong side of their bed-sy wed-sy.
  • Makes sense

    If you have good reason to believe you're being bugged (and that's a wise assumption for any visitor to North Korea to make), then you might as well completely discard the notion of privacy.

    I still don't think the trip was a good idea, but we'll see what happens.
    John L. Ries
    • NK isn't the only country to bug ..

      Many large companies give their executives "throw-away" computers and phones when they visit China on the assumption that they will almost certainly be infected with viruses at some point during the trip. So, leaving their equipment behind in China probably just made the job easier for the Chinese.
      • Didn't say it was...

        ...but North Korea has a worse reputation than most countries in that regard.
        John L. Ries
  • Re: A pointless vist and a pointless piece

    So I'm taking it that Oracle57 doesn't like how Google tracks all of your Android, Chrome, Google Earth, Google Maps, Buzz, etc. activity that gives them all of your spending, viewing, surfing habits along with the GPS coordinates, time and date details.
    I mean Google's slogan is "Don't be Evil"...right?
    And because they said that, must mean that that aren't evil...wait a second!...Maybe they were telling us to "Don't be Evil" :O !!!
    Is that why the NSA has an 'inhouse' office at Googles Headquarters?!

    That's OK... because we know the NSA never misuses info...

    Sorry my mind control meds are wearing off.

    Well..anyway...forget everything I just wrote.
  • BTW...

    Google wasn't there to sell a free internet to one of the most restrictive governments in the world...
    They were there showing them how to better track the data and get those dissident bast()$*s from looking at online porn (while very illegal in N. is like using gold bars when trying to get any guy/government worker or border guard to look the other way... give Obi Wan a run for his money with Jedi mind tricks), selling things on EBay and Amazon without paying sales tax and speaking poorly against their government.

    Thank God we have freedom of speech in the US and I can talk crap about the NSA and our other highly educated spooks...

    Hold On.... someone at the door...

    OOOppS! Gotta Go NOW!
    • And how do you know this?

      Sources please!
      John L. Ries
  • What's The Point In Amassing Nuclear Weapons When They No Longer Count?

    Hiding from the world is proof enough that the North Korean and Iranian regimes cannot withstand scrutiny even from their own people -- less the people should find out that the regimes have completely stifled economic development.
    Yet North Korea and Iran could just as easily have excelled economically as well as technologically -- for the greater good of their citizens.
    As things stand now, Iran has abandoned all paths to the country's Persian greatness, and daily North Korea has to face the glaring economic disparities with its sister state.
    Exactly how long will it take for these regimes to realize that in today's world a country's might is measured in economic terms?
    Indeed, even if the North Korean and Iranian regimes on their own somehow managed to amass Russia's military might, neither would be further ahead economically.
    So what's the point in trying?
    • What's the point?

      Blackmail. Despite the North Korean assertion that they need nukes to protect themselves from the US, the fact is that there is little about the country to interest the US. If they didn't have a threatening military, we'd probably forget the place even existed.
    • Iran vs. NK

      Iran is ridiculously more open than NK. We lump them together for some reason, but they are nothing alike. They are both problems for the U.S., but very different problems.
  • In other news...

    "Google Earth puts North Korea labour camps on the map"

    Maybe Mr. Schmidt has some leverage after all.
    John L. Ries
  • Hehehehe

    Everone knew Schmidt was a commie! :-)
  • Google vs Open Net

    Sorry, but Eric Schmidt's talk about an open Internet accessible by oppressed people of NK and Iran is nothing but crap. I work as a web developer in Iran, building sites for private companies. If I try and go to google's developer page ( to get API's for google maps or if I try android's developer page I'm confronted with the following nice message from Google: "Your client does not have permission to get URL / from this server. We're sorry, but this service is not available in your country. That’s all we know.". These are just two of hundreds of services that google blocks to users in Iran. Who's evil now?