Google adds North Korean death-camps to maps

Google Maps has added notorious, secretive North Korean prison camps to its maps of the country. The data is gleaned from user contributions, including a first-person account of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who escaped from Camp 14, a death camp where he was born and raised.

Called Map Maker, Google’s information for the country’s layout comes primarily from visitors and from former citizens who defected, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The mapping idea stemmed in part from a 28-year-old South Korean who tried to use Google maps on a trip to Laos four years ago, but found it unhelpful, at best. He ultimately helped devise the Google map application for North Korea.

“I thought if I could fill in information on North Korea, it might be useful in an emergency or tragedy if Google can provide a map for aid agencies,” the South Korean told the Wall Street Journal.

Google maps North Korea, including prison camps [Cheryl K. Chumley/Washington Times] (via /.)


  1. I tried to get Google Maps to give me directions. It was unable to do so. This is the correct answer. Once again, Google Maps proves its merit.

  2. North Korea’s gulags are an awful and completely abhorrent thing to still exist in the year 2013, but the term ‘death camp’ just doesn’t apply. Unless Mr Doctorow has access to intelligence unknown to the rest of the world.

    1. “the term ‘death camp’ just doesn’t apply.”

      A political concentration camp in which prisoners are worked to death would be different how, exactly?

        1.  I’d just like to share that the link above was the cause of a nearly two-hour-long wikipedia frenzy that resulted in my better understanding, not just of death-camps, but of the history of Falkirk, Scotland, the exploits of Genghis Khan’s lead general Subutai, and the Welsh origin of the character Merlin in Arthurian legend.

    2. The fuck is wrong with you? Read Shin Dong-Hyuk’s story before making that kind of a statement. It is certainly a death camp. His life is so twisted & this camp is so terrible its offensive you’d try to apply any kind of a shade of grey to it.

      1. I’ve read the story. He described a gulag, not an extermination camp (which is what ‘death camp’ means–google it). If it was an extermination camp, he wouldn’t have grown up. I know the conditions he described are about as horrible as can be imagined. Extermination camps are still worse. You criticize the above poster by claiming that his or her post was applying “any kind of a shade of grey to it”. This is inane. Gulags are horrible places where many people can be tortured, murdered, or worked to death, sometimes over a period of decades. But most people still survive. Nobody survives an extermination camp unless it is liberated. And the timeline for it is months or years. A gulag is a terrible prison where forced labor under the worst conditions is used as an example to intimate the rest of the population. An extermination camp is a factory designed to murder people in the most efficient way possible.

        It depresses me that people don’t understand the difference. I hope you use this opportunity to study the Holocaust and find out a little more on the history of extermination camps.

  3. I am trying to relate this to the recent visit to North Korea by Eric Schmidt. Did the Koreans agree to give data to google, or did the meeting have to happen before google started to use data they got from elsewhere?

    1. I was thinking these were related too, just not sure if it’s one way or the other out of what you just described

    2. It was probably a bit more than they asked for.

      The data was assembled by volunteers outside of North Korea, using satellite imagery and survivor accounts.

  4. I’m torn on saying these camps may damned near be as bad if not worse than Nazi Concentration Camps.  While it doesn’t appear they are systematically executing the population in mass, what they are doing is essentially torturing their captives to death instead.  Is that better, or worse?  Either way, that such places still exist in the world should outrage all of us.  

  5. “Turn Left at Heroic Victor’s Boulevard in 2 miles … ”
    “Turn Left at Lenin Avenue in 1000 feet … ”
    “Turn Slightly Left at One Korean Way.  Proceed through Guard Checkpoint A.”
    “You are arriving at your destination, Bukchang Gulag.”

    1. It’s satire, a tool of liberation for several millennia. If they hadn’t done it, nobody would have even known that this place existed.

  6. Is there more information on this guy’s escape somewhere? How did a Gulag escapee get access to a mobile phone (or computer?) with google maps on it, and how did he get internet access on it?

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