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Eric Schmidt says North Korea must allow internet access or 'remain behind'

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Eric Schmidt has continued pushing for internet access in North Korea during his trip to the region, where many citizens are restricted to a tightly controlled domestic intranet service, Bloomberg reports. "As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world," Schmidt told reporters after visiting the North Korean capital. "The government has to do something — they have to make it possible for people to use the internet, which the government in North Korea has not yet done. It is time now for them to start, or they will remain behind."

Schmidt continued on to say that North Korea's most popular cellphone network — which has about one million phones — could easily be reconfigured to allow subscribers access to the internet. "It would be very easy for them to turn that on." Schmidt has been very clear that his visit is "not a Google trip," and while his private discussions in the country will likely remain so, the public face of his trip so far has been limited to promoting a free internet for North Korean citizens. While Schmidt's efforts in Korea were focused on promoting internet access, he was accompanied by former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who was trying to secure the release of a detained American tourist. Unfortunately, Reuters reports that Richardson was unable to meet with the tourist and left the country without ensuring his release from captivity.