Google Maps fills in North Korea details
Google has updated its map of North Korea with roads, subway stations, parks and other details contributed by "citizen cartographers."
"For a long time, one of the largest places with limited map data has been North Korea. But today we are changing that," wrote Jayanth Mysore, senior product manager of Google Map Maker, on the Google Maps blog Monday afternoon.
"These maps are especially important for the citizens of South Korea who have ancestral connections or still have family living there."
Previously, Google's map of North Korea showed geographic features such as lakes, rivers and mountains and the location of the capital city of Pyongyang, but little else. The dictatorship is widely known as the "Hermit Kingdom" because of its tight restrictions to keep citizens in and foreigners out. That poses a challenge for would-be cartographers.
Mysore said Google gained access to the new details through Map Maker, a feature introduced in 2008 that allows anyone to update Google maps of areas they know.
"While we have published the North Korean maps today," he said, "we encourage mappers to continue improving maps of this country — and of course, the more than 200 other regions of the world on Google Map Maker."
Once approved, the updates will appear on Google Maps.
The release of the new map comes weeks after Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt visited North Korea on a "humanitarian mission" led by former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, despite the discouragement of the U.S. State Department.