Google Maps adds North Korean streets, prisons
BY YOUKYUNG LEE Associated Press
Thursday, January 31, 2013
1/31/13 at 5:41 AM
SEOUL, South Korea - Google Inc. has helped fill the gap in one of the last remaining information black holes in the world by releasing a detailed map of North Korea that adds street names, monuments - and its notorious prison camps.
Information on streets, parks, monuments and train stops in the capital of Pyongyang showed up on Google Maps' formerly blank map of North Korea this week. Until Tuesday, the isolated communist regime was the last place on Google Maps where no data was available beyond the capital city's name.
The revision came just a few weeks after Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, visited the country as part of nine-person delegation to North Korea. During the four-day personal trip that was opposed by the U.S. government, Schmidt visited computer labs at North Korea's top university and chatted with students there.
Google said there is "absolutely no connection in the timing" of the map's launch and Schmidt's North Korea visit.
Google said a community of "citizen cartographers" started building the North Korea map in 2009 based on satellite images, public information and local knowledge through a tool called Map Maker that allows collaboration on maps through crowd-sourcing.
The U.S. company decided that it had enough information to make the map available to the public this week.
Jayanth Mysore, Google's senior product manager, said on Google's official blog that the North Korea map is "not perfect" and asked for more contributions.
Through Google Map Maker, a service launched in 2008, users can add data to maps of places lacking accurate and detailed maps, like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Local residents can update maps of their communities with details like new bike paths.
The map of the North Korean capital offers more details than other parts of the country, including the names of streets and the location of the square named after the country's late founder, Kim Il Sung.
The map also marks at least four places where North Korea's government is suspected of operating prison camps.
An Myung-chul, who heads a nonprofit organization called Free the NK Gulag in Seoul that gathers information from former North Korean prisoners, said Google Maps' information on North's prison camps are "mostly accurate" although a concentration camp near Kaechon should be farther south.
Original Print Headline: Google adds North Korea to its maps
The Google Maps application is demonstrated on a tablet computer. Associated Press file