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While Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was criticized for his visit to North Korea last month, it appears that at least some good came out of it.
Today the North Korean government announced that it would now allow foreign travelers to use wireless Internet on their mobile devices while in the country. The country has long been considered isolated from the rest of the world due to the strict authoritative rule of the Kim dynasty, which has prevented citizens from communicating with the outside world via the Internet. (And really displaying any sort of unique personality, as Schmidt’s daughter noted during her visit.)
Schmidt, who was on a private trip with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson because the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, was attempting to urge the country’s leaders to adopt policies that would open up the Internet within the country. Unlike his father, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un has previously hinted at created a new North Korean “Industrial Age” that would heavily rely on using new technology.
Wireless service provider Koryolink also announced today that it would launch a 3G network by March 1, according to an AP report. Foreign travelers will be able to user their own devices on the network via a Koryolink-issued SIM card, which presumably means that access won’t be identical to what you’d get in the U.S. or European countries. Previously, visitors to the country had to check their mobile devices at customs during their stay, leaving them without any means of communication.
If this story has a moral, it’s certainly that not talking to isolated, authoritarian governments isn’t the best course of action when attempting to promote personal freedoms. Of course, North Korea still doesn’t let its citizens online, but at now foreign nationals that travel to the country (unofficially or otherwise) will have an open communication line to the rest of the world.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat