North Korea Uncovered

Monday, 11th April 2011 by

North Korea Uncovered was a massive collaborative effort between 2007 and 2009 to map out the reclusive country using Google Earth imagery. The project reveals thousands of landmarks across North Korea – everything from military bases to amusement parks, restaurants to statues, agriculture to gulags. It’s impossible to cover everything in this post, but here’s just a sliver of what the amazing project revealed.

I know what you’re thinking: “Where are the nukes?” While nuclear weapons haven't been found on Google Maps, nuclear reactors certainly have. Dating back to the 1980s, the heart of the North Korean nuclear program is Yongbyon, a large complex whose 5-megawatt reactor is periodically activated whenever the government feels like it (it has been operating continuously since 2009 after the last round of UN inspectors were ejected).

It wouldn’t be a trip to North Korea without some propaganda, and these massive messages written on hillsides don't disappoint: (“Let’s go ahead supporting three great revolutions”, “Hurray for revolutionary ideology of the great leader Comrade Kim Il-Sung!”, “If the party commands, we will do it!”). Other messages are a little more esoteric, such as “Let’s switch our goals to meat!”

Serious stuff perhaps, but don't worry - even repressive hermit states know how to party! For example, North Korea has the Emerald, its own five-star waterfront hotel and casino. Sure, it’s operated by the Chinese government for Chinese tourists, but still...

How about a trip to Pyongyang’s Central Zoo? This is where animals have been forced to maul each other in staged fights), but on the plus side it is right next door to a fairground replete with a roller coaster. As you can see, both places are packed with tourists…

Visiting these attractions in person would mean getting into North Korea from China, which you won’t be able to do by crossing this bridge, that’s for sure.

There are also landmarks that remain a mystery. Take this giant X inside a huge parallelogram. Is it a guide used for aerial navigation? A plot for a future airport? A bombing target?

Korea may be the only place where you can find an island naturally shaped like the land it belongs to1, although there’s no demilitarised zone splitting this island in two.

As mentioned above, this is just barely scratching the surface of what can be found in North Korea via Google Earth. For more information as well as a .KMZ download of the entire dataset, visit the North Korea Uncovered website.

  1. Although there are several artificial islands created in the shape of the land they belong to, some of which can be found in our post about Miniature Parks across the Globe↩︎