Google maps out North Korea

By Cassandra Mason

Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, complete with elaborate water park . Photo / Google Maps
Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, complete with elaborate water park . Photo / Google Maps

Detailed maps of North Korea - complete with prison camps - can now be viewed online for the first time thanks to Google.

Up until now, the ultra-secretive country has remained largely blank on the search engine's Map's website.

But data put together via Google's Map Maker tool has now made it possible for millions of viewers in Google Maps and Google Earth to zoom in for a closer look.

"For a long time, one of the largest places with limited map data has been North Korea. But today we are changing that," senior product manager at Google Map Maker, Jayanth Mysore, said in a blog posting on Monday.

"As a result, the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before," he said.

While much of the country isn't listed in great detail, the prison labour camps are clearly marked as grey sites.

In the largest camp, "Camp 22", which is close to the border with China, the map shows an armoury, a food factory and a guard's rest room, BBC reported.

About 200,000 people are thought to be held captive in the camps.

Other notorious landmarks like the nuclear research sites can also now be seen.

Google Maps has also made visible much of the capital Pyongyang, marking schools, theatres, government buildings, statues and underground stops.

Some embassies, an ice rink and the 105-storey Ryugyong hotel - which has been under construction for more than 25 years - can also be seen.

The move comes just weeks after Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited North Korea where he made an appeal for increased freedom and openness in the country, where fewer than a thousand people nationwide have internet access and less than five per cent have cell phones.

Schmidt's daughter, who accompanied him on the visit, later compared North Korea to "The Truman Show, at country scale", The Independent reported.

While Google is being lauded for its decision to list the camps, it is not believed North Koreans will benefit from the maps considering restrictions on internet freedom.

Launched in 2008, Map Maker allows users to contribute satellite information and local knowledge to build maps.

It has already been used to map countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Check out some of North Korea:

Play a few rounds at the Pyongyang Golf Complex just southwest of Pyongyang. This is where Kim Jong-il once scored his legendary and completely real 34 under-par, with 11 holes in one.

Hwasong Gulag, which, at 212 square km and an estimated population of 10,000 political prisoners, is North Korea's largest prison camp

Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, complete with elaborate water park



Punggye-ri nuclear test site where North Korea is reportedly preparing for a new bomb test which would bring the world that much closer to nuclear world war.



A search for "concentration camp, North Korea" provides similar results:

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