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Google's Schmidt eyes North Korea's state of technology

David Guttenfelder / AP

Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, right, tries on 3-D glasses as he looks at North Korean-developed computer technology during a tour of the Korean Computer Center in Pyongyang, North Korea on Jan. 9. At left is Kun "Tony" Namkung, a North Korea's expert and member of the traveling delegation.

David Guttenfelder / AP

Eric Schmidt, back row left, and former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, back row right, look at North Korean soldiers working on computers at the Grand Peoples Study House in Pyongyang, North Korea on Jan. 9.

By Jean H. Lee, The Associated Press

David Guttenfelder / AP

Eric Schmidt stands on a balcony at the Grand Peoples Study House overlooking Juche Tower in Pyongyang on Jan. 9.

A private delegation including Google's Eric Schmidt is urging North Korea to allow more open Internet access and cellphones to benefit its citizens, the mission's leader said Wednesday in the country with some of the world's tightest controls on information.

Schmidt, the executive chairman of the U.S.-based Internet giant Google, is the highest-profile American business executive to visit North Korea since leader Kim Jong Un took power a year ago.

On Wednesday, Schmidt toured the frigid quarters of the brick building in central Pyongyang that is the heart of North Korea's own computer industry. He asked pointed questions about North Korea's new tablet computers as well as its Red Star operating system, and he briefly donned a pair of 3-D goggles during a tour of the Korea Computer Center.

Schmidt has not said publicly what he hopes to get out of his visit to North Korea. However, he has been a vocal proponent of Internet freedom and openness, and is publishing a book in April with Google Ideas think tank director Jared Cohen about the power of global connectivity in transforming people's lives, policies and politics. Continue reading.

David Guttenfelder / AP

Eric Schmidt, second from left, and former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, second from right, look through an information technology text book at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, on Jan. 9. At left is director of Google Ideas think tank, Jared Cohen. The textbook is titled "Aries Net Certified Technician First Edition Version 3.0."

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David Guttenfelder / AP

Jean H. Lee, The Associated Press bureau chief in Seoul, and David Guttenfelder, AP's chief Asia photographer, have made numerous reporting trips to North Korea in recent years. They were granted unprecedented access on their latest journey to Pyongyang and areas outside the nation's showcase capital.