Google Maps adds North Korea, complete with prison camps

Three gulags appear as grey blotches

North Korea used to be just a big, blank spot on Google Maps, with only the capital of Pyongyang labeled, but the mapping service is changing that with interactive coverage of one of the world’s most secretive countries.

On the North Korea map released yesterday, it’s all there: streets, parks, subway stops and even the country’s gulags, prison camps the size of large cities. (The gulags appear as three grey blotches on the map.)

According to the official Google Maps blog, the map was created by “a community of citizen cartographers” who worked together to plot points and then to double-check one another’s work. Google admits that the map isn’t perfect, but it sure is a lot better than it was before.

Here’s a comparison of the area around Pyongyang, before and after:

(Google Maps)

Not only is the map a useful tool for curious Internet users, “these maps are especially important for the citizens of South Korea who have ancestral connections or still have family living there,” says the Google blog.

The release of the map comes after Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt visited North Korea and urged the country to stop its isolationist policies and connect with the outside world.

Though, the North Korea map rollout isn’t associated withe Schmidt’s trip, said a Google spokesperson.

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