Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported on 13 March (Wednesday) that the DPRK was blocked from accessing the Internet. The several thousand DPRK citizens with dedicated connections experienced trouble accessing the Internet and a number of DPRK websites (such as KCNA the Korea Sports Foundation) on the (.kp) top-level domain [IDNccTLD] could be neither be accessed nor viewed. For several hours on 13 March, some state media sites on the (.kp) domain were viewable. On 11 March (Monday) the website for the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun had provided a message in Korean that said there were problems with its server. ITAR-TASS, which maintains a correspondent in Pyongyang, reported: “Access to the Internet was blocked in North Korea on Wednesday. According to an informed source, Internet resources of the country have come under a powerful hacker attack from abroad.”
DPRK state media aired a brief story (33 seconds) at the end of its 9 January (Wednesday) television newscast which showed former Governor Bill Richardson, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen and members of their delegation touring the Grand People’s Study House in central Pyongyang. The television news story showed Richardson and members of the delegation visiting a circulation desk at the DPRK’s national library, using the library’s computer terminals and taking souvenir photographs of the Chuch’e Tower from the study house’s balcony.
DPRK state media also aired a brief story (32 seconds) on Gov. Richardson, Mr. Schmidt and the delegation touring the E-Library at Kim Il Sung University toward the end of the 8 January (Tuesday) newscast.
During its stay in the DPRK, the delegation met with several groups of DPRK officials, including a vice minister of foreign affairs, and visited the Korea Computer Center and the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun. With the exception of these two brief stories on Korean Central Television [KCTV] news and several short news items in DPRK print media, the delegation’s visit was a low-visibility event in DPRK state media reporting.
The delegation departed Pyongyang on 10 January (Thursday) and arrived in Beijing. Richardson said that DPRK officials assured him at one meeting that a 44-year old Korean American who was arrested and detained since early November 2012 was in good health and would soon be put on trial. Richardson also said that during an interaction with DPRK officials he asked the country to stop nuclear and missile testing. At a media availability in Beijing, Richardson and Schmidt said that they encouraged DPRK officials to expand access to the internet and cell ‘phones. According to The Guardian Richardson said that “The internet is important for the welfare of the North Korean people, to expand mobile technology, to expand cell phone use” and Schmidt remarked that “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.”
DPRK state media reported on 7 January (Monday) that China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Li Jinzao arrived at Pyongyang Sunan Airport, at the head of a delegation of trade and economic officials. During their stay, Li and the PRC delegation will attend the 7th meeting of the DPRK-China intergovernmental committee in economic, trade, science and technology cooperation.
DPRK state media also reported on 7 January that a delegation led by former US Ambassador and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson arrived the same day. Gov. Richardson’s delegation includes Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google.
Andray Abrahamian wrote about the Richardson-Google DPRK visit for the Choson Exchange blog.
DPRK state media reported on 4 October (Thursday) that Orascom Group executive Naguib Sawiris and a small delegation arrived in the DPRK. KCNA reported that Sawiris and the Orascom party visited the equestrian statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang. The Orascom delegation also visited the Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Factory. It is not clear with whom Naguib Sawiris will meet during his stay in the country. News of his arrival in the DPRK was included in KCNA’s report on his paying tribute to the KIS and KJI statues, and was reported on Korean Central Television’s [KCTV] news broadcast the same day. However, there was no public report as to what DPRK officials greeted him on arrival at Pyongyang Airport. When Sawiris last visited the country in February 2012 he was greeted by Joint-Venture Investment Committee [JVIC] Vice Chairman Ri Kwang Gun (Ri Kwang-ku’n) and DPRK elite Ri Chol (Ri Ch’o'l).