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North Korea Comes To Google Maps, Showing Prison Camps

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If you had glanced at North Korea on Google Maps before this week, you could be forgiven for thinking the country had no roads, no buildings and no transport.

But on Tuesday, sprawling highways have appeared across its surface and famous landmarks have popped up, including the secretive nation's gulags - which have become the target of spoof internet reviews.

The data was compiled using data from Google's Map Maker tool which allows ordinary people to contribute information to the maps, using their local knowledge and satellite images.

north korea gulag

The grey area shows one of the country's large prison camps in the new Google Maps

Never ones to miss an opportunity for satire, internet users have begun posting "Google Reviews" of some of the prison camps on the map.

One wrote: "Best gulag in town. Very accessible and great accommodation! Also the nature is great and the people are nice and modest. I would definitely recommend this camp to every one who want to loose al his freedom and rights for the sake of the Great Leader!"

Another said: "Praises and blessings to the great and venerable Leader for allowing me to stay in his dwelling of happiness. With thanks to the Leader our comrades made much freedom against the imperialist American pigdogs. All hail the Leader!"

Reviewing the Hwasong Gulag, one user posted: "Whilst it doesn't have the international reputation of Bukchang, Hwasong is certainly worth a visit for any gulag enthusiast."

Google's Map Maker has previously been used for countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Many South Koreans contributed to the efforts to map the country.

north korea border

A North Korean soldier on the border with South Korea

The map shows the location of the notorious North Korean Prison Camp No. 22, approximately 87 square miles.

Jayanth Mysore, senior product manager at Google Map Maker said in a blogpost: "This effort has been active in Map Maker for a few years and today the new map of North Korea is ready and now available on Google Maps.

"As a result, the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before.

"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.

"We know this map is not perfect — one of the exciting things about maps is that the world is a constantly changing place. We encourage people from around the world to continue helping us improve the quality of these maps for everyone with Google Map Maker.

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt recently visited North Korea on a "private, humanitarian" visit.

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