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 golf courses, 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 Burma.
In the case of North Korea, those volunteers worked from outside of the country. They used information that was already public, coming from existing analog maps, satellite images, or other Web-based materials.
North Korea was the last country almost virtually unmapped by Google.
The new maps are unlikely to have an immediate influence in the North, where Internet use is restricted to all but a handful of elites. But they 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.
Source : washingtonpost[dot]com