Until Tuesday, North Korea appeared on Google Maps as a near-total white space — no roads, no train lines, no parks and no restaurants. The only thing labeled was the capital city, Pyongyang.
This all changed when Google rolled out a detailed map of one of the world's most secretive states. The new map labels everything from Pyongyang's subway stops to the country's several city-sized gulags, as well as its monuments, hotels, hospitals and department stores.
According to a Google blog post, the maps were created by a group of volunteer "citizen cartographers," through an interface known as Google Map Maker. That program — much like Wikipedia — allows users to submit their own data, which is then fact-checked by other users, and sometimes altered many times over.
Much of the information for the map was already available on the Internet, said Hwang Min Woo, 28, a volunteer mapmaker from Seoul, South Korea, who worked for two years on the project.
North Korea was the last country virtually unmapped by Google, but other — even more detailed — maps of the North existed before this. Google's map is important, though, because it is so readily accessible. The publication comes just weeks after the visit to North Korea of Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.