SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Google Inc. has helped fill the gap in one of the last remaining information black holes in the world by releasing a detailed map of North Korea that adds street names, monuments — and its notorious prison camps.
Information on streets, parks, monuments and train stops in the capital of Pyongyang showed up on Google Maps' formerly blank map of North Korea this week. Until Tuesday, the isolated communist regime was the last place on Google Maps where no data was available beyond the capital city's name.
The revision came just a few weeks after Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, visited the country as part of a nine-person delegation to North Korea. During the four-day personal trip that was opposed by the U.S. government, Schmidt visited computer labs at North Korea's top university and chatted with students there.
Google said there is "absolutely no connection in the timing" of the map's launch and Schmidt's North Korea visit.
Google said a community of "citizen cartographers" started building the North Korea map in 2009 based on satellite images, public information and local knowledge through a tool called Map Maker that allows collaboration on maps through crowd-sourcing. An average North Korean would not likely be able to contribute, however, since only a select few have pre-approved Internet access.
The U.S. company decided that it had enough information to make the map available to public this week.
Jayanth Mysore, Google's senior product manager, said on Google's official blog that the North Korea map is "not perfect" and asked for more contributions.