Egyptian billionaire: I’m open to Google deal in North Korea

Thursday, 5 Sep 2013 | 8:44 AM ET
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Egypt's most outspoken billionaire, Naguib Sawiris, told CNBC that Koryolink, his joint venture with North Korea, is open to a deal with Google to provide mobile and broadband to the world's most isolated country.

"Sure, why not?" Sawiris told CNBC's Access: Middle East. "If we leave these people and say [North Korea] is none of our business...then they go and do this crazy stuff, like war and nuclear war, but if we reach out, maybe there is a way to slowly bring them back to the world."

Koryolink, founded in 2008, is currently North Korea's only 3G mobile operator, although Sawiris said the country could be preparing for a second operator soon.

(Read more: Yahoo beats Google to the top spot for US web traffic)

"It took me actually two years before we signed the initial agreement, so I was very patient," Sawiris said. "It was a miracle that they allowed people even to talk and send sms (messages), because it's a way of freedom. They were worried, because this way they leave the people to connect."

Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made a visit to North Korea in January this year, igniting speculation over the internet giant's plans for the country.

"He shares my view," said Sawiris. "We talked about that together you know. I met him in New York."

(Read more: Why Google's Chairman Is Visiting North Korea)

Although North Koreans are currently only able to make local phone calls and texts, Sawiris saw great prospects for 3G technology, and what it could achieve for the country's citizens.

"Think of what united the 25 January revolution in Egypt and around the area. It's the internet and mobile, and the cellular. So it's a big step you know," he said.

"We need to find ways like that, because they (the North Koreans) are very proud people, and once you challenge them, they feel squeezed and they react in a very exaggerated way. So maybe that's not the right way."

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