Over the weekend, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's 19-year-old daughter Sophie reportedly posted a personal Google website that features an extensive recollection of her time accompanying her father and a private delegation of nine total led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to North Korea in early January, according to the AFP. The younger Schmidt's vivid and skeptical description of the visit, which also includes numerous photos, begins "It might not get weirder than this," and stands in stark contrast to the more restrained, diplomatic thoughts shared Sunday night on Google Plus by her father.
As the younger Schmidt cautions at the beginning of her post:
"It's impossible to know how much we can extrapolate from what we saw in Pyongyang to what the DPRK is really like. Our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments. We had zero interactions with non-state-approved North Koreans and were never far from our two minders (2, so one can mind the other).
The longer I think about what we saw and heard, the less sure I am about what any of it actually meant..."
Ms. Schmidt goes on to compare the entirety of what she saw to the hit 1998 Jim Carrey drama "The Truman Show" about a reality show with an unwitting star. "It's like The Truman Show, at country scale," Schmidt wrote. For example, the delegation had two "minders" from the North Korean government that followed them everywhere and "Three channels on the TVs: CNN International, dubbed-over USSR-era films, and the DPRK channel, which was by far the most entertaining." Ms. Schmidt also notes that there were no visible commercial storefronts at street level in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital city, and "none of the buildings we visited were heated."
Schmidt further observed on a tour of the palace mausoleum that among the belongings of late leader Kim Jong Il on display was an Apple 15" Macbook Pro laptop.
But the most unsettling visit Schmidt described was a tour of a North Korean university "e-library" where approximately 90 people sat in front of computers. As she relates:
One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in--a noisy bunch, with media in tow--not one of them looked up from their desks. Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines.
Also, among the other strange (to Schmidt) sights and sounds was the only recognizable non-North Korean propaganda music: a remastered version of The Cranberries' "Dreams." "It's cool, I'm sure they secured the rights first," Schmidt wrote. Check out Sophie's full North Korea visit site here.