Google Earth presents a bird's eye view of many things that secretive North Korea wants to keep hidden. Human rights activists and bloggers have taken a Google program used mostly for recreation, education and marketing and applied it to map a vast system of dozens of prison camps that span North Korea, a country slightly smaller in area than Greece and home to 23 million people. As many as 250,000 political prisoners and their families toil on starvation rations in the mostly remote mountain camps, according to estimates by international human rights groups.
The good that Google has done, however inadvertently, by helping people tell the truth about North Korea, will probably be reflected in the history of the country one day.
Stanton's blog freekorea.us/ carries satellite images from Google Earth and analysis of the features of six political prisoner camps - three of which he is credited with playing a role in confirming or identifying. The blogger identifies images of gates and guard houses, and in some cases coal mines and crude burial grounds - corroborated through the work of experts and interviews with defectors from North Korea who lived or worked in the camps.
"The dramatically improved, higher resolution satellite imagery now available through Google Earth allows the former prisoners to identify their former barracks and houses, their former execution grounds, and other landmarks in the camps," said the study.
Satellite imagery readily available through Google Earth has certainly enabled human rights experts to decisively confirm that these facilities do exist, despite the fact that the North Korean regime denies their existence.