After much anticipation and a State Department warning, Google chairman Eric Schmidt and the former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson have arrived in North Korea, where an American citizen named Kenneth Bae is reportedly being detained for an unspecified crime. Whether they have any chance of freeing him, well, they're not getting their hopes up. Schmidt and Richardson, who are joined by Shmidt's daughter and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, intend to meet with Bae as part of a larger tour of several universities and other North Korean attractions. The "Google delegation," so called by North Korea's state-run news agency, has already earned the rebuke of the State Department, which called the trip "unhelpful" to U.S.-NoKo diplomatic relations — which, as of now, do not exist. Richardson, who characterized the tour as "a humanitarian private visit," seems well aware: upon landing in Pynonyang, he told reporters that he doubted that his team would be able to secure Bae's freedom any time soon.
The 44-year-old Bae was arrested on November 3 after entering the country from South Korean city of Rajin with a tour group. Washington State Rep. Cindy Ryu told a newspaper in Everett, Washington (where Bae is from) that he may have been arrested because he declined to reveal that he was a Christian missionary. "We want to visit our home country, but in North Korea you cannot say you are a missionary," Ryu told the paper.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.