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In N. Korea, Google's Schmidt gets glimpse of Net

The group from the U.S. gets a tour of a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University, where students really do get to go online, to a degree.

Google's Eric Schmidt
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Not many people in North Korea get to take a peek at the Internet, but visitor Eric Schmidt did.

Google's executive chairman is on a controversial four-day junket to North Korea at the invitation of former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson, who has described the trip as a private, humanitarian undertaking that seeks in part to get access to a detained American citizen. The U.S State Department would have preferred that the group skip the visit, or at least not go so soon after the reclusive country's recent missile test.

Today the group from the U.S., which also includes Jared Cohen, head of Google Ideas, got a tour of a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in the capital city of Pyongyang, according to the Associated Press. One student, the AP reported, showed Schmidt and the others how he goes online to look at reading material from Cornell University.

And just like their counterparts in more Internet-friendly countries, the handful of students in the lab turn to Google to search for information.

But they hardly get full and unfettered access to the online world. Students at North Korean universities and others in the country face restrictions that range from being corralled in a state-run intranet to having their online activities closely monitored.

North Korea regularly shows up on the "Enemies of the Internet" list compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Joining it on the 2012 list were countries including China, Iran, Syria, and Uzbekistan.