‘North Korea Uncovered’: Three Years Later

With the all-but-official designation of Kim Jong-un as heir apparent to his father Kim Jong-il (in the form of a military promotion to the rank of general despite never having been in the military), interesting times are ahead for North Korea. The entire system of state propaganda and idolatry must now be amended to allow for worship of Kim Il-sung’s grandson just as it was for Kim Jong-il beginning in the 1970s.

Today’s announcement quickly had me thinking about what became of the North Korea Uncovered project, a Google Earth-based collaborative effort originally released in April 2007 that set the blogosphere afire. This massive database contained an incredibly valuable wealth of information on the economic, cultural, political, and military infrastructure of the DPRK. Well, good news: the project is not only still available for download but is now on Version 18. Hosted at Curtis Melvin’s North Korean Economy Watchthe amazing 2.1 MB .kmz file maps out the reclusive land of North Korea in as meticulous of detail as has been seen to date.

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Source: C. Melvin, North Korean Economic Watch, http://www.nkeconwatch.com/nk-uploads/ge-macro-pic.JPG.

As Melvin pointed out in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last year, “it’s democratized intelligence”; the combined results of a dozen or so people combing Google Earth’s satellite imagery and affixing labels to what they see in order to expose the inner workings of the world’s most secretive regime. With countless landmarks pointing out everything from markets and gardens to hillside propaganda, rocket launch sites and prison camps, it’s a truly impressive body of work that deserves your attention on such a momentous day. Download the file and see for yourself.

Further Reading

BBC (2010). North Korea’s Kim paves way for family succession. BBC News Asia-Pacific, 28 September 2010. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11426284. Accessed 28 September 2010.

Brown, A. (2009). Satellites uncover North Korea. BBC News, 9 August 2009. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8110093.stm. Accessed 28 September 2010.

Melvin, C. (2009). North Korea Uncovered – (Google Earth). North Korea Economic Watch, 25 June 2009. Available at http://www.nkeconwatch.com/north-korea-uncovered-google-earth/. Accessed 28 September 2010.

Ramstad, E. (2009). Gulags, Nukes and a Water Slide: Citizen Spies Lift North Korea’s Veil. Wall Street Journal, 22 May 2009. Available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124295017403345489.html. Accessed 28 September 2010.

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