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Google Debuts Crowd Sourced Map on North Korea

Through Google Maps, with the click of a mouse, you can travel the world; see the most remote places on earth, and even explore Antartica with panoramic imagery. But one place that has always been unavailable, even through Google Maps, is the hermit kingdom: North Korea. This has now changed.

On Jan 29, 2013 Google revealed its new crowd-sourced map of North Korea, just three weeks after Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, visited the country. Google's North Korea map, though it did exist before, was mostly blank. But now, you can see drastic changes in the map (photos of before and after).

North Korea in Google Map

Image of North Korean capital in revised Google Map. Screen Captured.

Jayanth Mysore, a senior manager of the Google Map Maker project, wrote about the initiative on the official Google Maps blog. (For the Korean version, click here)

we’re constantly working to add more detailed map data in areas that traditionally have been mostly blank. For a long time, one of the largest places with limited map data has been North Korea[...]To build this map, a community of citizen cartographers came together in Google Map Maker to make their contributions such as adding road names and points of interest.

Instant web reactions have followed. @romanticity wrote [ko]:

북한 구글지도 예전에는 퀄리티가 별로였는데 이젠 상세한 지도까지 서비스되네요 실향민이나 탈북자들 좋으실듯.

North Korea's Google map quality was really poor before, but now they provide a detailed map. It would be useful for defectors and refugees.

@9it added [ko]:

북한 상세 지도 찾아볼 생각은 한번도 안해봤는데, 지금 뒤적거리다보니 뭔가 신기하네요.

I've never even thought of browsing a detailed map of North Korea, but now I am doing it and it feels somehow wonderful and strange.

@leejik wonders about [ko] the significance of such move:

구글지도에 북한 지도가 이제 제대로 뜨기 시작했네요. 이제 개방을 하는건가?

North Korea map appears quite well on Google Maps. Does this signal a start of openness of this nation?

North Korea in Google Map

Image of North Korean capital in Google Map Satellite view, Screen captured.

@premist pointed out [ko] the difference of two Korea's map graphic quality: 

한국에서는 법 때문에(혹은 구글이 귀찮아서) 안 되는 Google 벡터 지도가 북한 평양에서는 되네요

A Vector map is unavailable in South Korea because of legal issues (or perhaps because Google is too lazy to make one?). But it has now become available in North Korea's Pyongyang.

There are indeed legal restrictions in providing high-resolution map in South Korea. @leftliber is paraniod about [ko] other law, South Korea's notorious National Security law that censors almost anything related to North Korea to the point of jailing a South Korean Twitterer for retweeting North Korean tweets:

오, 구글 지도에 드디어 북한이. 근데 혹 이거 들여다보다가 국가보안법 걸리는 건 아닌가. (이런 걱정을 해야 하다니…)

Oh, North Korea now appears on Google Maps. Is there any chance I may be accused of violating the national security law just because I looked at this map? (Seriously, am I living in a situation where I have to worry about this?)

Some net users, such as @kyeolgun, were rather pessimistic and brought a worrisome, yet valid scenario [ko]:

북한이 구글에 지도데이터를 주기로 했다는 건 기존 군사시설을 대부분 지하화했다는 얘긴가… 무섭군.

North Korea offering map data to Google — does that means that it has already turned most of its military facilities underground? (If it were true), it could be scary.

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