North Korean Prison Camps Mapped By Google Using "Citizen Cartographers"


A group of North Korean "citizen cartographers" is using a new Google tool that allows users to incorporate crowd-sourced map data into Google Maps to literally put on the map the country's most infamous concentration camps — or gulags — where Kim Jong-un's regime allegedly keeps its political dissidents.   

According to a blog post by Jayanth Mysore, a senior product manager working on the Google Map Maker project, the Map Maker tool allows users to "update the maps of the areas they know, and improve their level of detail and accuracy."

The Google Maps update comes about three weeks after Google CEO Eric Schmidt visited North Korea to encourage officials to make the internet available to the country's citizens (online access in the communist nation remains strictly restricted, and its expected most North Koreans won't have access to Google's recently revamped mapping tools).

According to The Atlantic, Google's new "crowd-sourced cartography" includes mass transit systems, national monuments and parks, as well as North Korea's "gulags" (including the infamous Hwasong Gulag), which are signaled on the maps "with a slightly different shading."  

And, as North Korea threatens with performing nuclear tests as retaliation for recent U.S.-led UN sanctions, Google's Mysore tries to downplay the impact that his company's technology could have in uncovering the regime's alleged concentration camps. 

"While many people around the globe are fascinated with North Korea," Mysore writes, "these maps are especially important for the citizens of South Korea who have ancestral connections or still have family living there."