Google publishes detailed maps of North Korea

The Internet giant said the updated information is based large on its crowd-sourcing tool Google Map Maker

Google has published detailed maps of North Korea, based on information entered by users via its online Map Maker tool.

The maps now include details about the ultra-secretive nation including highways and smaller roads, country borders, parks, schools and features such as an amusement park in Pyongyang, the capital. Most of the areas were blank previously, and the information supplements Google's existing satellite imagery of the country.

Google said in a blog entry that the new data was collected via its Map Maker software over several years. The company said that from now on, it will publish approved updates entered using the tool as part of its official Google Maps offering.

"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," wrote Jayanth Mysore, a Google product manager, in the blog.

Earlier this month, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt visited North Korea with his daughter and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. The U.S. government was negative about the trip, which was deemed a "personal" visit by the executive, coming just after North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket.

After the trip, Schmidt's daughter Sophie, posted details of the trip online in an account titled "It might not get weirder than this," with details including a visit to an electronic library at a university and Doritos for sale at a supermarket.

Map Maker is an online tool that Google uses to solicit map information from users about certain countries, with the goal of eventually adding it to the official version of Google Maps. The tool can be used to add features such as natural landscape, political boundaries, roads, railways and buildings, although the company usually does not immediately publish the data.

Users are currently able to add information on about 200 countries, which are often places where traditional map data is difficult to obtain. These include locations in many countries in Africa and central America, Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Antarctica.

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