Google-Earthing the North Korean Military

Poking around Google Earth at a moment of geopolitical drama, I took a look at North Korea. Turns out that military installations are not only indicated by the Google Earth community, they’re described in some detail.

There are areas in several countries that have been left at low resolution at the request of the countries affected for security purposes. Since the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea [N Korea] is a secretive state that does not have regular contact with the rest of the world, they have not requested any areas to be excluded … The information posted is the work of several that has been combined, which I participated in. I am retired, and spent 22 years in the US Army. During [which] 22 years, I was assigned to Korea for 4 tours…

From a Google Earth Community Member, in an email to Open Source, 7/17/06

In fact, there are several military and intelligence employees, some retired and some active, who turn the defense job into a hobby, helping to point out and explain foreign military curiosities at the very civilian level of Google Earth. One current imagery analyst explained that, though he never divulges classified information, he often ‘identifies naval vessels at’ bases that ordinary Google Earth explorers have stumbled upon. Also, maps from sites such as are overlayed onto the framework of Google Earth. Like an army of ants, the nearly 550,000-strong Google Earth community has voraciously explored the North Korean military installations, including:

North Korean air base [Google Earth]

Submarines at Pipa Got naval base, North Korea [Google Earth]

[Google Earth must be downloaded, installed, and open to use these links, which will each fly directly to their location in Google Earth]

Musudan-ri/No-Dong missile test site

Pipa Got naval base

Cho Do naval base

and an apparently functional air base hidden behind a mountain.

Extra-Credit Reading

Public Eye – introduction,

Barry Levine, Does Google Earth Reveal Military Secrets?, NewsFactor Magazine, June 27, 2006

Essam Al-Ghalib, Google Earth Raises Privacy, Security Issues, Arab News, March 27, 2006


31 thoughts on “Google-Earthing the North Korean Military

  1. As it happens, I have been looking at Google Earth because I am doing a story about the inherent distortion that characterizes mapping — be it the medieval “trinity” map featuring Europe, Africa and Asia (all equal-sized) meeting together with Jerusalem at the center or the somewhat dated Google vista of the backyard of one of my interviews. “I’ve pruned my avacado tree since they took their picture.”

    While the North Korean pics are fun, they raise a question about what we are really missing in this satellite-circumscribed planet. For example, should these images constitute “news” or “newsworthiness”? If so, then who has the right to say what we can or cannot see in Google Earth? Sure, a pic of Castro sunbathing by his pool might be considered fair game in this scheme, but certain public property in D.C. is considered off-limits.

    Is it possible that Google Earth is, like Google itself, being played for a chump by a regime or two? Revealing N. Korean subs through public access becomes sport, but showing historic sites of older structures in our nation’s capital — why, that’s treason!


  2. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I’ve truly loved browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing on your feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!

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