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Google Maps offers rare glimpse of North Korea

Following a visit by company CEO Eric Schmidt, Google has published detailed topographical information on the closed state of North Korea via its Maps service. Prior to this, the single-party state generated a mostly barren map (see image, top) when searched for on the popular website.

“Creating maps is a crucial first step towards helping people access more information about parts of the world that are unfamiliar to them,” wrote the Map Maker’s senior product manager, Jayanth Mysore in a blog post.

"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... from this point forward, any further approved updates to the North Korean maps in Google Map Maker will also appear on Google Maps," he added.

The additional data was derived from user contributions made through the Internet firm’s Map Maker tool launched in 2008. It allows for a Wiki-esque user experience by enabling anyone to add satellite images or local insights to a topographical database.

The open-source editor has already been used to provide more up-to-date maps for other hard-to-reach nations like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Much like Wikipedia, the tool's overall accuracy is questionable but Google asserts that its adaptability is reflective of the ever-changing state of the world.

“No map is perfect and in some parts of the world, map data is very limited, Map Maker is an increasingly important part of how we will build the modern map,” Mysore reasoned.