Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Even Satellites, Google Maps Can't See Anything in North Korea

In case you haven't been keeping up with the world news, Kim Jong Il, North Korea's infamous ruling dictator, died past Saturday from a heart attack. As the news makes the rounds through online sources, the scientific community is doing its part to remind everyone of how the country is perceived via modern technology. Suffice to say, North Korea is a rare enigma among nations.

New Scientist notes that, for a country with the means and access to nuclear technology, North Korea is one of the only regions in the modern world where night-time luminosity is practically non-existent. Generally, most countries with high amounts of night-time luminosity are considered active, prosperous areas. Nighttime satellite imagery from the Science Photo Library that New Scientist published illustrates just how enclosed the country is compared to neighboring China and South Korea, both of which are starkly bright by comparison.

"The world's most secretive country is also one of its darkest. This satellite image shows night in North Korea. The capital Pyongyang, near the western coast, is one of the only places in the country with electricity. At the top of the picture, the illuminations show cities in China. At the bottom right, Kyushu and the southern islands of Japan. The bright line in the middle of the peninsula marks the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, and the southern capital, Seoul, is the blaze of white just across the border. "

Even looking at North Korea through Google Maps (below) shows relatively little, save for a small handful of scattered landscape locations. With a population of roughly 24 million people, the lack of Google Maps information is a pretty clear indicator of how secluded the nation has been under Kim Jong Il's leadership. Even the United Nation's Human Development Index, a general study of whether a country has cities, electricity, or even basic human facilities, has nothing on North Korea.