Today Google announced the availability of updated cartography of North Korea in its Maps product.
The new maps came to be from input to its Google Map Maker tool from what the company describes as “a community of citizen cartographers,” submitting both points of interest, and other more mundane things such as roads and the like.
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Google and North Korea have a recent history, following an unofficial trip by the firm’s chairman Eric Schmidt to the country; State Department officials had spoken against the excursion. Mr. Schmidt went despite the official protestations. Following his trip, Schmidt spoke out about Internet access in the secretive kingdom:
Once the internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do one thing: open up the Internet first. They have to make it possible for people to use the Internet, which the government of North Korea has not yet done. It is their choice now, and in my view, it’s time for them to start, or they will remain behind.
North Korea remains a famine state, ruled by a hereditary dictatorship, with state sponsorship from communist powers. That it lacks basic information freedom and unfettered Internet access is hardly surprising.
However, even though travelling to North Korea can be a difficult, and contentious trip, with Google’s update you can tool around the place to greater effect. Here’s a before-and-after shot, via Google itself, of maps of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital:
To the credit of the folk who helped Google create the new maps, the detail enhacement is massive.
Google Maps itself and North Korea have a relationship. In the last week, bloggers used the tool to uncover prison camps in the country, where thousands of enslaved workers are held in captivity.
Top Image Credit: yeowatzup