Google publishes North Korea map... complete with gulags

Posted by Emma Woollacott

It's always nice to have a map to go along with your holiday snaps, and remind you just where that charming temple or prison camp was exactly.

And, just a few weeks after Google CEO Eric Schmidt's little jaunt to North Korea, a decent map of the country has appeared in Google Maps for the first time.

Until now, North Korea has had more limited map data than almost anywhere else in the world. But over the last few years, Google's had a team of 'citizen cartographers' working on the problem through its Map maker initiative, adding such data as road names and points of interest.

"As a result, the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before," says senior product manager Jayanth Mysore.

"Creating maps is a crucial first step towards helping people access more information about parts of the world that are unfamiliar to them. While many people around the globe are fascinated with North Korea, these maps are especially important for the citizens of South Korea who have ancestral connections or still have family living there."

Most of the data came from satellites, for obvious reasons - very, very few North Koreans have access to the internet.

The end result, while still not exactly comprehensive, has vastly more information than before - including those prison camps. And while the only labeled place in the previous version was the capital, Pyongyang, the map now boasts roads, subway stops - and even department stores. Next time Eric visits, he'll know where to shop for a new 'jamba' jacket.