Google unveils detailed map of North Korea

Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently paid an unexpected visit to North Korea. Schmidt’s daughter Sophie offered a good account of the visit and you can check it out here.  Now, the company has rolled out an equally intriguing map of North Korea, with plenty of streets, towns and landmarks.

But “landmarks” in North Korea also include nuclear sites, forced labor camps for political prisoners and memorial palaces housing the remains of demigods Kim Il Sung and Kim Kong Il. 

The map will let you take a virtual tour of Yodok and Hwasong gulags, which are part of an extensive network of North Korean prison camps. Human rights groups claim as many as 200,000 people are imprisoned in these de facto concentration camps. Some camps are so-called family camps, and they are not used to imprison dissidents or criminals, but rather their extended families.

The map also includes the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility. North Korea recently announced that it plans to carry out a new nuclear test at the site. The hermit kingdom already tested two nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. The first device fizzled, while the second one delivered a yield of about 5 kilotons.

Of course, Google did not get the new data from the North Korean regime. CNN reports the search giant relied on a “community of citizen cartographers,” using Google’s Map Maker software. Google believes the new maps could be useful to South Korean citizens, who still have family members living across the 38th parallel.

The new map will not be of much use to North Koreans themselves, as internet access in the country is extremely restricted, along with everything else from food to electricity.