Mt. Vernon Register-News

Top News

January 29, 2013

Google releases detailed map of North Korea

SEOUL — Until Tuesday, North Korea appeared on Google Maps as a near-total white space - no roads, no train lines, no parks and no restaurants. The only thing labeled was the capital city, Pyongyang.

This all changed when Google, on Tuesday, rolled out a detailed map of one of the world's most secretive states. The new map labels everything from Pyongyang's subway stops to the country's several city-sized gulags, as well as its monuments, hotels, hospitals and department stores.

According to a Google blog post, the maps were created by a group of volunteer "citizen cartographers," through an interface known as Google Map Maker. That program - much like Wikipedia - allows users to submit their own data, which is then fact-checked by other users, and sometimes altered many times over. Similar processes were used in other once-unmapped countries like Afghanistan and Myanmar.

In the case of North Korea, those volunteers worked from outside of the country, beginning from 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.

North Korea was the last country virtually unmapped by Google, but other - even more detailed - maps of the North existed before this. Most notable is a map created by Curtis Melvin, who runs the North Korea Economy Watch blog and spent years identifying thousands of landmarks in the North: tombs, textile factories, film studios, even rumored spy training locations. Melvin's map is available as a downloadable Google Earth file.

Google's map is important, though, because it is so readily accessible. The map is unlikely to have an immediate influence in the North, where Internet use is restricted to all but a handful of elites. 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.

The map's publication comes just weeks after the visit to North Korea of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who toured the country in a series of highly staged encounters that included a stop at a computer library, which Schmidt's daughter later described in a blog post as the "e-Potemkin Village." Schmidt's visit was unrelated to the map roll-out, a Google spokesman said.

Google, in its blog post about the new North Korea map, acknowledged that the information is "not perfect."

"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.

Melvin quickly spotted a mistake in Google's version.

Google's map shows a golf course on Yanggak Island, on a river that curves through Pyongyang.

But Melvin, citing recent photographs from tourists, said the golf course no longer exists.

          

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 22, 2014

  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Pathologist: Brown may have had his hands raised

    FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — An unarmed 18-year-old whose fatal shooting by police has sparked a week of protests in suburban St. Louis suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned, a pathologist hired by his family said Monday.

    August 18, 2014

  • Police identify officer, allege teen robbed store

    FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Police on Friday identified the officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager and released documents alleging the young man had been suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store in a "strong-arm" robbery shortly before he was killed.

    August 15, 2014

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014

  • congressionaldemographics.jpg Most Republican House districts are majority-white

    Significant numbers of conservatives, and white Americans in general, admit to feeling discomfort at the prospect of a non-majority white America. These views are even stronger among Tea Party-aligned conservatives.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • unrest.jpg Why the Ferguson police-shooting riots had little to do with Ferguson

    Riots and vandalism broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. An 18-year-old black man named Michael Brown was fatally shot by police there. Brown was unarmed. It's still unclear why tensions boiled over.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Robin Williams, manic comedy star, dead at 63

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Robin Williams, the Academy Award winner and comic supernova whose explosions of pop culture riffs and impressions dazzled audiences for decades and made him a gleamy-eyed laureate for the Information Age, died Monday in an apparent suicide. He was 63.

    August 11, 2014