Following Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s visit to North Korea, the internet search giant has posted its first Google Maps of the isolated country. It should be noted that it is for the first time that actual mapping of the country has been done.
When Mr. Schmidt announced that he was planning to visit the country, he was criticized by the United States government, with the White House saying that it was “ill-advised.” The visit was a part of Google’s vision to open up the internet and increase global access. Mr. Schmidt said that he wanted North Korea to end its self-imposed isolation and open up internet access to its citizens.
The first online maps of the country was put together using Google’s Map Maker, which relies on users to piece together maps where limited information is available.
The North Korea map actually offers quite a bit, with numerous “sensitive” locations such as prison camps and more importantly, nuclear test sites located and labeled. It should be noted here that Pyongyang is looking to test a nuclear device sometime in the near future.
As for the capital city itself, Pyongyang finds its schools, theatres, government buildings and underground stops marked out on Google Maps, with one of the largest prison camps in the country, Camp 22, located and labelled, but large swaths of the country remaining unidentified.
Speaking about the new North Korean Google Map, senior product manager at Google Map Maker, Jayanth Mysore said, "For a long time, one of the largest places with limited map data has been North Korea. But today we are changing that. As a result, the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before."
Analysts have said that the new Google Map of the country will be especially beneficial to the cousin, South Korea, which will be eager to explore the country and even trace ancestral dwellings. But those in North Korea may not have much need for it, as internet access is extremely restricted, with only hundreds having access.
Data for the Google Map, besides being provided by numerous Koreans themselves, was also provided by an Australian risk manager, Sebastiaan van Oyen, who had lived in the country for two months. Speaking about it, he said, “For a basic map you will be fine, but it will take time to get reliable street level navigation,” adding, "Keep in the back of your mind that there are restricted areas and not much [readily available] local knowledge outside of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."