Accompanying a delegation led by former New Mexico Gov. and UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt arrived earlier this morning in Pyongyang, North Korea. They were there on what was described by Richardson as “a private humanitarian mission.”
Richardson posted the following comment about the trip on his website:
Governor Bill Richardson will travel to North Korea next week on a private humanitarian mission. The delegation will consist of former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Dr. KA Namkung; Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas; as well as some staff members.
The US State Department expressed disapproval of the trip. The trip was originally scheduled for December and was postponed once in deference to the State Department’s disapproval.
Richardson said that the delegation isn’t representing the US government in any capacity but that he’s seeking release of detained Korean-American Kenneth Bae. Richardson also said that he’s been visiting and dealing with North Korea for the past 15 years.
The North Koreans described the group that landed this morning as “The Google Delegation.” However Richardson denied that Schmidt or Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas, are there as representatives of Google formally.
“I invited Eric. He is going as a private citizen; this is not a Google trip. He’s interested in foreign policy, he’s a friend of mine, and I felt that it was important that there be a broader perspective of our visit,” explained Richardson in the CBS television interview below.
We reached out to the designated Google contact for the trip but have not received any response. I’ll update this post if we receive one.
Eric Schmidt has been mentioned as a potential government appointee several times (i.e., Commerce Department). It’s unlikely that he’ll remain at Google for the next ten years and so he may be exploring other potential opportunities. This trip may be part of that larger exploration for Schmidt.
As the above quote indicates, Schmidt is apparently interested in foreign policy. Indeed, he’s acted as Google’s “ambassador” to governments and regulators around the world for the past few years and especially since shifting out of the CEO role.
Below is a CBS interview with Richardson about the trip and his motivations for going.