Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Detail from a Google map that shows North Korea's "Nuclear Test Road"

On Tuesday at 11:57 a.m. Korean Standard Time, the U.S. Geological Survey recorded an earthquake in the northeastern part of North Korea.

Later in the day, North Korea confirmed the blast was in fact the result of a nuclear test.

Even if North Korea had intended to keep the test a secret, it likely wouldn't have been able to, thanks to a tool many of us have come to rely on every day: Google Maps.

Story continues below advertisement

If you type the U.S. Geological Survey co-ordinates of the blast into Google Maps – 41.301°N, 129.066°E – and click on "Satellite," a visual display of North Korea's nuclear ambitions is revealed. Just south of where the blast occurred, a long stretch of road pops up called "Nuclear Test Rd," leading up to a large compound comprised of multiple grey buildings called "Nuclear Test Facility."

It's not known if the road is officially called "Nuclear Test Rd" or the compound "Nuclear Test Facility." Google's information comes from "citizen cartographers" – often locals believed to be keen on exposing the activities of the North Korean government – who have provided the company with road names and points of interest. Just as with Wikipedia, information is cross-checked by other users to verify its legitimacy, a Google spokesperson told The Globe and Mail.

The company first made the new information available in late January.

Google says that a big part of the initiative is helping South Koreans connect with parts of North Korea where they "have ancestral connections or still have family living there."

But, as with the revelation of the "Nuclear Test Facility" and the exact location of the blast, Google is shining a light on other activities of the North Korean government, many of which have already been condemned by the international community.

Just east of the where the nuclear test took place, "Gulag 16 Rd" stretches from east of the blast site to just north of it, where clusters of buildings can be seen at various points along the road when zoomed in on the map. Google calls this area "Hwasong Gulag," believed to be one of several forced-labour camps across the country where political dissenters have been sent over the years.

In 2011, Amnesty International estimated that 20,000 people were imprisoned at Hwasong and as many as 200,000 in gulags across the country.

Story continues below advertisement

Pyongyang has vehemently denied the existence of gulags.

Google says it continues to encourage people to make contributions to its effort to map North Korea – a country the world has become fascinated with, but is arguably the most isolated.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies