Eric Schmidt just concluded a tour of the isolated country
Google CEO Eric Schmidt urged North Korea to open itself to the internet or face further economic decline following a four-day visit to the isolated dictatorship.
Schmidt, who spoke in Beijing after the private trip with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, said the already economically stunted nation would fall further behind the rest of the world unless it increased access to the internet and mobile phones among its 24 million citizens, the Associated Press reported.
"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, and it will make it harder for them to catch up economically," Schmidt said. "We made that alternative very clear."
The nine-person delegation also included Jared Cohen, the director of the Google Ideas think tank.
"The government has to do something," Schmidt said. "It has to make it possible for the people to use the Internet. It is their choice now. It's in my view time for them to start, or else they will remain behind."
Broadband internet and a 3G mobile network are available in North Korea, but very few have unrestricted access.
"It would be very easy for them to turn that on," Schmidt said.
Richardson told reporters in China that the group also pushed officials in Pyongyang to stop all missile and nuclear tests, which have incurred United Nations sanctions.
Schmidt has long been a champion of internet freedom and in April published a book with Cohen about the power of global connectivity.