The availability of Internet access at the Grand People’s Study House in Pyongyang has been known for many years. Tourists to the site have reported seeing it many times and Eric Schmidt, founder of Google, and his colleagues saw North Koreans accessing Google and the Cornell University websites when they visited in 2013, according to an AP report.
In July, a report on Korean Central Television about a new online library system showed a computer monitor displaying the Google home page. While North Korean TV regularly shows citizens sitting at computers and accessing websites, it’s common to see only domestic websites shown on computer monitors.
Internet access is strictly monitored in North Korea and the degree to which North Korean citizens can browse the Internet is unclear. Given the state’s strict rules on access to foreign information, it is unlikely they are given free reign to visit any site of their choosing.
When Sophie Schmidt visited the building’s e-library in 2013 as part of the Google delegation, she encountered a room with about 90 computers but little activity. “No one was actually doing anything,” she wrote on her blog. “A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared.”