After his visit to Pyongyang this week, Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, told North Koreans to embrace the connectivity of the Internet or forever remain in the past. Despite being one of the least-wired countries on the planet, North Korea has a bizarre obsession with technology -- one that to Western eyes appears, well, quaint. Steel mills and factories compete with glorifications of the country's leaders as the most popular subject of paintings. Statues of rockets decorate the Mangyongdae Children's Palace in Pyongyang, a stop on the foreign tourist circuit where privileged North Korean youngsters play after school. And throughout the country's propaganda one finds computers, many of which look like they stepped out of a 1980s video game. Like so many things in North Korea, former President Kim Jong Il put it most authoritatively. On the wall in the Korea Computer Center, which Schmidt toured, hangs a quote from Kim: "Now is the era for science and technology. It is the era of computers."
Above, a 2009 photograph of a propaganda poster from a school shows students learning about the cosmos.