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

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. 

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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?"