The crowd-sourced mapping system has had access to the data since 2009, according to a Google spokesman. The submissions had to be refined before going live on Google Maps.
North Korea was one of the last countries with almost no previous data on Google Maps, the spokesman says. Before Monday, the country was completely blank on Google Maps, except for a few labels of major cities.
Jim Walsh, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program, says the new data could provide crucial insight to those studying North Korea.
“It’s going to be very helpful moving forward,” Mr. Walsh says.
In Pyongyang, Google Maps outlines everything from city streets and markets to the Kim Man-yu Hospital and the North Korean Workers Party Monument.
The map highlights a number of other details, such as armories and North Korea’s notorious prison labor camps. One gulag, known as Camp 22, appears near the North Korean and Chinese border.
This is not the first map of North Korea that’s available online. Curtis Melvin, editor of the North Korean Economic Watch Blog, says on his website that he has spent several years compiling public maps, interviews, innovative analysis, and other data for a Google Earth representation of North Korea. The Google Map Maker, however, is the first official crowd-sourcing project to take on the mysterious North Korean peninsula.