Google Chairman Eric Schmidt capped a controversial four-day visit to North Korea on Thursday with a call for the country's censorship-happy communist government to give its people access to the internet, or face further economic decline due to the country's global isolation. It was a strong message from one of the web's most powerful figures, although North Korea watchers seem pretty confident the country's young leader, Kim Jong Un, will ignore it. There's one American, however, Pyongyang does appear to listen to. That would be Jimmy Dushku, a young investor who is one of exactly three Twitter users Kim's government follows on Twitter. What's the story behind this unlikely online bromance? Here, a guide:
Who is Jimmy Dushku?
He's a 25-year-old financial whiz kid from Austin, Texas. Dushku, who also goes by the nicknames "Jimmer" and "Jammy," started a website development business when he was 14, according to Mother Jones, and he parlayed his early earnings into investments that now include everything from construction projects in Europe to real estate in Texas to mines in South America. He's also a rabid Coldplay fan, and when he isn't jetting around the world, he says he likes to play Rachmaninoff on his piano and zoom around on his Ducati Monster motorcycle.
So how did he become buddies with North Korea?
Dushku tells Asawin Suebsaeng at Mother Jones he's not really sure. "People always ask me how it happened, and I honestly can't remember," he says. "It started sometime back in 2010. I was initially surprised." North Korea followed him, he followed North Korea "out of courtesy." He tweeted back, "Hello my friend," and a relationship was born. Then, the North Korean government, which has piled up some 11,000 followers in two-and-a-half years on Twitter, abruptly whittled down the number of accounts it follows, leaving just three. Dushku made the cut (along with a Vietnam account and another official North Korean handle).
What has Dushku gotten from the relationship?
Death threats, for one thing. Not long after he linked up with North Korea's account, which goes by @uriminzok (or "our nation"), Dushku says he started getting angry messages from exiles and South Koreans. Since then, he has mostly kept a low profile, just to be safe, although he does occasionally grant interviews to foreign publications. For its part, North Korea gets a rare glimpse at the outside world through Dushku, as his is the only account North Korea follows that is regularly updated — the other two haven't tweeted in months. He's also the only human being in the bunch.
Will @JimmyDushku and @uriminzok ever meet in real life?
That's always the question for acquaintances who meet online, isn't it? Dushku says his friendly relationship has won him a standing offer to visit North Korea. Casual observers, however, advise him to proceed with caution. "Am I the only one thinking they picked some random guy so they can lure him into North Korea and use him as a political prisoner/bargaining chip?" one commenter at Gizmodo said. Another suggests that Dushku play it cool, without making Pyongyang angry, saying, "Never unfollow anybody with nuclear weapons."
Other stories from this topic:
- The List: North Korea's rocket launch: 3 consequences
- Instant Guide: Is North Korea finally embracing capitalist reforms?
- Fact Sheet: North Korea's startling military shake-up: What it means
- Politics & Government
- Foreign Policy