Google unveils detailed map of North Korea


The world knew very little about the highly secretive nation—until Google, with the help of citizen cartographers using Google Map Maker, unveiled a detailed map of North Korea. Before, there was only white space and the location of North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang—no roads and no specific locations of other cities were available on Google Maps.

Google Map Maker allows people to submit their own data, which is then fact-checked by others. This is similar to the approach Wikipedia uses. Google Map Maker has also unveiled other once-blank countries such as Burma (Myanmar) and Afghanistan. In the case of North Korea, those volunteers worked from outside of the country starting in 2009. They used information that was already public, compiling details from existing analog maps, satellite images, or other Web-based materials. “Much of the information was already available on the Internet,” said Hwang Min-woo, 28, a volunteer mapmaker from Seoul who worked for two years on the project.

Although it won’t be beneficial to North Koreans, where Internet use is heavily restricted to its elites and the government, other countries can take a glimpse into a nation shrouded in secrecy, which will provide information for analysts and scholars. These maps come on the heels of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt visiting North Korea, although the roll-out of the maps was unrelated to his visit.

Before Google Maps revealed North Korea, a map made by Curtis Melvin, who runs the North Korea Economy Watch blog, had an extremely detailed layout of North Korea, revealing numerous landmarks and even rumored spy training locations. Melvin’s map is available for download as a Google Earth file here.

“We encourage people from around the world to continue helping us improve the quality of these maps for everyone with the map-making program,” Google said.

For an interactive map of North Korea before and after Google’s unveiling, you can go here.

Source: Washington Post