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January 19, 2013 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Sophie Schmidt's (Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt's daughter) photo and text impressions of their recent visit to North Korea. As part of the American Delegation that visited North Korea a few days ago (headed by former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson) Eric Schmidt invited his daughter Sophie, who took some snapshots and posted them with her impressions of the trip. [via HN]
posted by KMB (35 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
First of all you would think the daughter of the executive chairman of Google would manage not to have the pictures on her website overlap the text.
posted by beagle at 11:44 AM on January 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


Blame Google Sites (and this two-column structure idea of mine) for limited functionality
Hey! At least it's warm, right?
posted by fullerine at 11:49 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


She was probably still super high on that NK ditch weed when she made the site.
posted by orme at 11:56 AM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow... This legit? I can't help but think it reads entirely too snarkily, in a way that would pretty much obliterate any good the visit might have accomplished... "No, really, thank him, because it was only with his expert instruction and inspirational vision that I was able to make this slideshow"??? Uh, yeah, hope you (and your father) didn't plan to go back for the remainder of this century. Or that sarcasm doesn't translate well into Korean.

Other than that - Eric, would you buy your daughter a graphic designer? We expect better than GeoCities-era eye bloodying goodness from (anyone even remotely associated with) the former CEO of one the biggest web-centric company in the world.
posted by pla at 12:04 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a couple of years old now, but if you're interested in a surprisingly long and detailed exploration of NK, the Vice Guide is pretty substantial. It's made more entertaining by the fact that the guys who went are kind of dicks; which may perversely explain why the NK authorities granted them so much time and access. As ambassadors for the west they're relatively ideal for the regime's purposes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:04 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to work up a different weed joke, one that also has Bill Richardson in it. Little help, anybody?
posted by box at 12:05 PM on January 19, 2013


Very interesting to see such a recent account. The previous ones I've seen were from before Kim Jong-Il died and his son took over. The photos were similar, except the previous ones I'd seen did not have Potemkin e-villages.

Maybe it's because of the recent post about the Atlantic's advertorial disaster with the Church of Scientology, but I kept thinking that this is what a country that was run entirely by Scientologists.
We also met our handlers, two men from the Foreign Ministry, whom we gave code names. Unusually, both men had lived in the US, in addition to other countries, as embassy staffers.

It was hard to reconcile this with our notion of hermetically-sealed North Koreans: Did it mean they'd passed the ultimate loyalty test? That they were even more ideologically committed than most NKers? How on earth do they reconcile the differences they see between their experience abroad and what they'd always been told?
Extreme loyalty, and the knowledge that their families back in North Korea would be toast (probably tortured in prison camps for years and years and then killed eventually) if they didn't come back, regardless of how their views changed while in another country. Which--I don't know. I guess it's possible to continue believing NK propaganda while faced with evidence to the contrary, but it's probably pretty eye-opening and upsetting for people who leave temporarily and have to go back because otherwise they'll never see their loved ones again.

Come to think of it, that is how the COS controls its members who become disgruntled and want to leave.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:11 PM on January 19, 2013


What was she expecting her visit to be like? It read as though she was expecting a wink or a hipster eye roll from someone, anyone.

On Korean birthdays: http://www.squidoo.com/korean-birthdays
posted by armacy at 12:12 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If memory serves you can see the E-Villages in the Vice guide to North Korea -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24R8JObNNQ4
posted by the theory of revolution at 12:14 PM on January 19, 2013


We left our phones and laptops behind in China, since we were warned they'd be confiscated in NK, and probably infected with lord knows what malware.

so much lol
posted by effugas at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


If that country eventually opens up without blowing up, they're going to make huge stacks of tourist money.
posted by pracowity at 12:39 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


My tolerance level for videos of Kim Jong Un in crowds turns out to be remarkably high.

I like her.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:43 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to work up a different weed joke, one that also has Bill Richardson in it. Little help, anybody?

*tumbleweeds*
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the customs form, there's a check mark for "drug, exciter, narcotics, poison."
Is "exciter" some kind of Korenglish for "stimulant?" Because I'm seriously thinking that's my new name for caffeine.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:54 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pictures of North Korea always have such a clean, empty look -- it's disorienting and deeply appealing. THIS is what the world can look like when every single thing in your field of awareness isn't trashed up with a dozen different forms of advertising competing for your attention. Sadly, instead of advertising there is the ubiquitous propaganda, which is a little harder for me to really see because the language is foreign. I can imagine that our world really wouldn't look very appealing to someone who was accustomed to such a low level of sensory stimulation. It's a testament to human adaptability that defectors from North to South Korea can survive at all.
posted by Corvid at 1:09 PM on January 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


How exactly is one supposed to read this article? Zig-zagging downwards?
posted by monolith at 1:20 PM on January 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Readability aside, this article is fascinating. I am really struck by this line here:
Our trip coincided with the "Respected Leader" Kim Jong Un's birthday. On that day, the little stalls that dotted the city and sold small sundries had long lines as they distributed treats.

When we asked how old Un had turned (29? 30?), we were told that "Koreans keep track of age differently" than we do. Alright, then.
Does anyone know what is behind this oddity?
posted by rebent at 1:24 PM on January 19, 2013


It's like she never even researched before she went.

"We got to go to the Palace of the Sun (because of a cancelled meeting). It's a rare honor." Now, again, as someone else said above, perhaps that's sarcasm?

Also - the photos of Kim looking at everything is pretty much all you get at North Korea Leadership Watch If you're ever curious about the comings and goings of the North Korean elite, this is the site you want to visit. It's like the Gawker of N. Korea. All those fabulous photos of Kim Jong Un (and before him Kim Jong Il) pointing at things and visiting places.

I always look at that and just think how much of a more mayoral type job it is. Like - "Hey, we built a little theme park that's as exhilarating as a small rural county fair. Let's have the leader of our country inspect it to show how amazing and wonderful we are!"
posted by symbioid at 1:27 PM on January 19, 2013


rebent, Korean age starts from 1 at birth so Kim Jong Un would be 29 by Western reckoning but 30 if counted the Korean way.
posted by subdee at 1:33 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Un Gran Hombre, wasn't that Eric's title at Google?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:48 PM on January 19, 2013


How many years will it be until the future residents of Googletopia are looking back wistfully on the relative freedom of 2012 North Korea?
posted by fairmettle at 1:58 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


When we asked how old Un had turned (29? 30?), we were told that "Koreans keep track of age differently" than we do. Alright, then.

What a condescending dimwit. Koreans and Japanese do indeed have a different way of keeping track of age.

You find it in 2 seconds using BING.
posted by three blind mice at 2:04 PM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Rebent: I imagine Kim Jong-un is the only currently living "supreme leader" that Wikipedia doesn't know the age of. (He is 29-30 years old). It is probably an official state secret how old he is. (And yes, this is well know, three blind mice, please don't be so condescending.)

A very cool resource for following what is going on in North Korea is by the way the North Korean Economy Watch, it is really a surprisingly strange place.

I would love to go to North Korea myself, but if you go there as a tourist you're giving a direct financial contribution to a really really shitty leadership, something which I'm not all that fond of. South Korea is by the way a nice place for random travel, if not quite as strange. (Computers in every hotel rooms, at least two TV channels only showing StarCraft games!)
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 2:09 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a condescending dimwit. Koreans and Japanese do indeed have a different way of keeping track of age.

I thought her response was aimed at the "we do it differently than you" *slam question shut* method of answering rather than mocking the different method of counting.

I think she'd have been open to a ".. so he'd be x by your standards but is y in Korean years".
posted by Brockles at 2:10 PM on January 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


Witty and interesting report, once you push through the formatting issues.

blame Google Sites

You father also owns Blogger, you could have used that.
posted by LarryC at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I thought it was a really funny read. Although the formatting is questionable, I don't really shive a git. One thing to note: the Google Sites page has lots of templates that are starting points for creating pages. So, it doesn't look totally useless.
posted by hanoixan at 2:46 PM on January 19, 2013


I can imagine that our world really wouldn't look very appealing to someone who was accustomed to such a low level of sensory stimulation. It's a testament to human adaptability that defectors from North to South Korea can survive at all.

Yes, I never thought about how overwhelming that experience would be until I read about it in Nothing to Envy. The author briefly describes the South Korean reintegration program that N. Korean escapees have to go through before they start their new life in SK. The new arrivals basically get taught about all the stuff that exists in the modern world that they would have been unaware of in NK. They also learn what kinds of "facts" they were taught are actually anti-SK propaganda or anti-rest of the world propaganda. That kind of thing. I've always meant to do a little more research into it, to see if I could find out more about these programs.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:52 PM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can imagine that our world really wouldn't look very appealing to someone who was accustomed to such a low level of sensory stimulation. It's a testament to human adaptability that defectors from North to South Korea can survive at all.

I spent a lot of time in L.A.'s Chinatown as a kid, and I miss the lo-fi aesthetic of the imported products. For example, Bee and Flower soap looks much more mellow than Moisture Blast with Hydrobeads Irish Spring.
posted by halonine at 3:17 PM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


The page rendered fine in my Chrome. I enjoyed the read. Young sophisticate in repressive totalitarian country with a formal delegation. I can really feel her Alice in Wonderland. She can grow from this experience even if she is mystified now.
posted by maggieb at 5:42 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


When we asked how old Un had turned (29? 30?), we were told that "Koreans keep track of age differently" than we do. Alright, then.

Yeah, it looks like she thought someone was deliberately being cagey, but really her question doesn't have an answer. He's not turning a year older this birthday because, in Korea, your birthday is not when you do that. Supposition error.
posted by eritain at 6:44 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed that though OMG, Sophie, get one of your Dad's code monkey minions to set up your Google Site next time
posted by Bwithh at 7:51 PM on January 19, 2013


I enjoyed it. The disjointed zig-zag reading seemed to mirror the disjointed feel of her story and what was likely her experience. As she said early, she was shuffled from scene to scene with occasional real(?) glimpses into their lives. Shuffling from anecdote to anecdote seems fitting.
posted by DisreputableDog at 11:42 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it looks like she thought someone was deliberately being cagey, but really her question doesn't have an answer.

It does have an answer. Something like: "He was born on January 8, 1983, [or whatever the real date was] making him X years old according to the standard chronological way of calculating a person's age. But in this country, where we frequently use a system in which you are born at age one and you gain a year at each lunar new year, we commonly would say he's Y years old. In any case, he was born on January 8, 1983." And that would have been very interesting to learn as a tourist.
posted by pracowity at 3:48 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The e-library story at the university is pretty insane.
posted by gt2 at 8:49 AM on January 20, 2013


Sophie's dad has now also posted his impressions of the trip.
posted by beagle at 10:06 AM on January 20, 2013


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