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A pair of photographers trail Eric Schmidt into North Korea

Bill Richardson, left, and Eric Schmidt disembark from an airport transfer bus after arriving at Pyongyang International Airport on Monday. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

About one year ago last week, the Associated Press opened its Pyongyang bureau, the first full-fledged Western news office in North Korea. It isn't really full time – the journalists aren't allowed to live in the country, and must still endure the usual stifling restrictions – but, however severe the hassles, they're worth it for moments like this one.

North Korean journalists interview Richardson in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Two photographers working with the AP, David Guttenfelder and Kim Kwang Hyon, have chronicled a few moments from Google chief Eric Schmidtt and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson's strange trip into North Korea. Though the purpose of the trip is not clear, Richardson called it "humanitarian," elaborating on Schmidt's presence, "This is not a Google trip, but I’m sure he’s interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect."

Eric Schmidt waits as customs officials look over his group's paperwork. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

I don't know what "the social media aspect" means, particularly given that North Korea's extraordinarily severe web restrictions effectively mean that there is no social media there. Still, it's interesting to see these photos from the trip, as Schmidt is plunged into a very alien world. Richardson, famously, has visited the hermit kingdom several times before.

North Korean journalists surround Eric Schmidt in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

The State Department appears less than thrilled with the visit, which confers some much-sought legitimacy on the new leader, whose carefully cultivated public image would stand to gain by receiving such high-profile guests.

Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt, left, disembarks from an airport transfer bus after arriving at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Behind him, from left to right, are Google Ideas think tank director Jared Cohen and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. Richardson called the trip to North Korea a private humanitarian visit. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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