With the assistance of locals, Google has updated its Maps service to fill in many of the blanks of North Korea’s most remote locations, providing a more detailed picture of the country.
“Creating maps is a crucial first step towards helping people access more information about parts of the world that are unfamiliar to them,” wrote Jayanth Mysore, senior product manager at Google Map Maker Mysore, on Google Lat Long. “While many people around the globe are fascinated with North Korea, these maps are especially important for the citizens of South Korea who have ancestral connections or still have family living there.”
You can see the difference in the before and after pictures here:
One thing North Korean definitely won’t be happy about is the appearance of gulags – or forced prison camps – on Google’s new maps. As Buzzfeed pointed out, the political prison labor camp Kwan-li-so (also known as “Camp 22“) is labeled as a gulag and here’s what you’ll see if you search for “concentration camp, north korea]:
The presence of the gulags has inspired some very dark humor in the form of reviews on a Google+ Local page that rate the quality of the concentration camp as if it were a hotel. There are 64 reviews as of this writing – though some are people chastising those who are making the spoof reviews.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt recently visited North Korea and implored the country to soften its stance on limited Internet access.
“As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth, and it will make it harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very clear,” he said, according to the Guardian. “Once the Internet starts, citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do something. They have to make it possible for people to use the internet, which the government in North Korea has not yet done. It’s their choice now, and in my view it’s time now for them to start or they will remain behind.”