North Korea urged to open Internet, cellphone access

Members of a private and humanitarian mission touring North Korea is calling on the totalitarian state to increase open cellphone and Internet access.

“The citizens of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) will be better off with more cellphones and an active Internet,” former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, head of the delegation said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Those are the…messages we’ve given to a variety of foreign officials, scientists and government officials.”

The North Korean government, led since last year by Kim Jong Un, wields some of the world’s toughest controls on information and closely watches its citizens interaction with non-citizens. Jong Un’s father Kim Il Sung who ruled the country since it was founded in 1948 has kept North Korea virtually isolated from other nations.

The country of 24 million is estimated to have only over 1,000 IP addresses. South Korea, which has a population of 112 million has 1.5 billion IP addresses.

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Google Inc. chief Eric Schmidt, who is part of the controversial delegation, has not publicly spoken during the trip about what he intends to get out of the trip.

However, Schmidt toured the country’s computer industry centre in Pyongyang and inquired about North Korea’s tablet computers and the Red Star operating system, according to reports.

The trip is not sanctioned by the United States government and the State Department has called it unhelpful especially at a time when the U.S. is calling for United Nations Security Council action against North Korea following the communist country’s rocket launch.

Richardson said his nine-member group has also called on North Korea to stop further missile launches and nuclear tests. The delegation is also seeking “fair and humane treatment” for Kenneth Bae, an American being held in custody in North Korea for alleged “hostile acts” against the state.

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