Sunday, February 10, 2013

North Korean gulag reviews

But Google recently released its cartographic impression of the Hermit Kingdom, and as usual, it comes with all the Googley goodies: just move your cursor across Kim Il-sung Square, and you’ll be met with site labels, embedded photographs, Wikipedia entries, directions, ratings and reviews. ...

The truth, of course, is that the only people on earth who can’t see Google’s map of North Korea and comment on its features are the North Koreans.

Which leaves the rest of us to do the job. “Citizen cartographers,” Google calls us — though it would seem we are deficient in at least a few qualities that great mapmakers require: texture, nuance, subtlety.

Google lists 70 reviews for Bukchang Gulag (Camp 18), reportedly home to tens of thousands of prisoners. One reviewer said this concentration camp was “Nothing to write home about,” while another called it “Hands down, my favorite gulag.”

“Lacks wifi” was one reviewer’s comment on the infamous Kaechon Gulag (Camp 14).

Yodok (Camp 15) is a family gulag and the subject of Kang Chol-hwan’s harrowing memoir “The Aquariums of Pyongyang.” Yodok was described by one Google user as “dated and in desperate need of a face-lift. We ran out of towels after the first day and the staff wasn’t very understanding of our towel needs.” (Four out of five people found this review helpful.)
--Adam Johnson, NYT, on Google Maps wit