Google Maps presents North Korea through a new lens
Google Maps released its first atlas of North Korea on Monday, which outlines major roads, landmarks, hospitals, and prison labor camps within the country's borders.
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“It’s going to be very helpful moving forward,” Mr. Walsh says.Skip to next paragraph
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In Pyongyang, Google Maps outlines everything from city streets and markets to the Kim Man-yu Hospital and the North Korean Workers Party Monument.
The map highlights a number of other details, such as armories and North Korea’s notorious prison labor camps. One gulag, known as Camp 22, appears near the North Korean and Chinese border.
This is not the first map of North Korea that’s available online. Curtis Melvin, editor of the North Korean Economic Watch Blog, says on his website that he has spent several years compiling public maps, interviews, innovative analysis, and other data for a Google Earth representation of North Korea. The Google Map Maker, however, is the first official crowd-sourcing project to take on the mysterious North Korean peninsula.
Walsh says the map not only casts a spotlight on North Korea, but also provides information that could dispel misconceptions about the country.
“What’s really useful about a project like this is it allows you to see change over time,” Walsh says. “It’s not just a snapshot most people in their heads have a notion of.”
The North Korea that many imagine is not the North Korea that exists today, Walsh says. The country has experienced some economic gains with more restaurants, cars, and people in the capital. Meanwhile, the nation’s economy continues to deteriorate in the countryside and in the industrial cities to the north.
“Elites are getting wealthier and the rest of the country appears to be as poor or getting poorer,” Walsh says. “That’s an important dynamic. That’s not the fixed image we have in our mind that North Korea is always poor.”
How does Google Maps play into this? The more data that becomes available to the public, the easier it is for people in the United States and in South Korea to understand the economic and cultural developments in North Korea, Walsh says. More information could mean less conflict down the line.
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