“North Korea may be the world’s most shrouded country, but on Tuesday Google Maps lifted the veil just a little, uploading a map of the police state complete with street names in the capital,” The New York Times reports:
The new map, built with the help of what Google called “a community of citizen cartographers,” provides people who normally visit the site for driving directions with a peek at places they previously may only have read about, probably in news articles about the North’s nuclear program or its devastating food shortages.
“The map is unlikely to have an immediate influence in the North, where Internet use is restricted to all but a handful of elites,” The Washington Post reports:
But it could prove beneficial for outsider analysts and scholars, providing an easy-to-access record about North Korea’s provinces, roads, landmarks, as well as hints about its many unseen horrors. In the country’s northeast, for instance, Google has labeled what it calls the “Hwasong Gulag.” One street, called Gulag 16 Road, cuts through it. And at the end of Gulag 16 Road is a train station. Beyond that, little else around the gulag is marked.
“In the largest gulag of all – Camp 22 at Hoeryong near the north-east border with China – Map Maker identifies a number of units, including an armoury, a food factory and a guards’ rest room,” AFP reports. “As many as 200,000 people are estimated to be detained in North Korea’s vast gulag system, many under a guilt-by-association system that punishes those related to ‘’enemies of the state’”.
Curtis Melvin, who has led a crowdsourcing effort to map North Korea using Google Earth, told the Wall Street Journal he was surprised to learn of the Google Maps initiative.
“It’s not even a fraction of what I’ve already published,” he said:
Mr. Melvin, who publishes a website called North Korean Economy Watch, recently collaborated with 38 North, a North Korea website operated by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, on a digital atlas of North Korea. He has relied on information provided by people who have visited the country or former citizens who defected from it.
Described as “small miracle” for raising hopes for human rights inNorth Korea, the defectors act as a “bridge population” between the two Koreas, says Carl Gershman, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Endowment for Democracy.
Information about developments within the Hermit state is also emerging from a new generation of defectors and publicized via such outlets as Daily NK, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.