Well, that'll make all the difference, won't it?

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has reportedly used his time in North Korea this week to explain to the government how beneficial an open internet is.

Schmidt's been on a three-day trip to the country with former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, a move which has been criticized by the US State Department.

Schmidt reportedly used the opportunity to argue that only free global commerce can improve the standard of living for ordinary North Koreans - something, it has to be said, that hasn't appeared to concern the country's leaders unduly up to now.

Google's keen on the idea of an open internet, touting the fact that it only censors the internet when ordered to by a national government. As things stand, North Korea doesn't really have an internet to censor, with only the most senior figures having access to a computer.

"As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth", Schmidt explained at a press conference in China.

"The government has to do something. They have to make it possible for people to use the internet. It's their choice now, and time, in my view, for them to start or they will remain behind."

He claimed officials appeared to be receptive to the idea.

However, the visit doesn't seem to have achieved much in terms of its other stated aim: to secure the release of US citizen Kenneth Bae, who's been charged with crimes against the state.

It appears that Richardson failed to meet Bae, or to get any more information on when he would actually be tried. Apparently the North Korean authorities said he was in good health, though.