Pranksters 'Review' North Korea on Google Maps
Netizens have begun posting online 'reviews' of North Korean locations just days after Google Maps added new details of the secretive country.
When Google unveiled a detailed map of secretive North Korea, online pranksters and trolls began "reviewing" hotels, stadiums and even gulags.
Most of the Google Map "reviews" won't prove too useful for the few outsiders who get to visit North Korea as tourists. Instead, many people indulged in tongue-in-cheek commentary or dark humor about North Korea's cult-of-personality dictatorship, its Orwellian-style surveillance, and the general lack of both food and material wealth for many North Koreans.
"The finest health care clinic in all of Asia doubles as a fast food restaurant that makes starvation in the Glorious People's Democratic Republic a figment of Imperialist imagination!" wrote Ken R, a Google Plus user, in his review of the Ponghwa Clinic in North Korea's capital of Pyongyang.
Similarly fictitious reviews discussed the culinary merits of "dog-butt sandwiches" at Pyongyang's Yanggakdo Stadium, joked about invisible golf courses, and made mock complaints about movie theaters that showed nothing but films made by Kim Jong-il (the Hollywood-obsessed father of North Korea's current leader Kim Jong-un).
Google Maps previously showed few details in North Korea aside from the bare outlines of Pyongyang. That has changed since citizen cartographers — volunteer netizens working with Google Map Maker from outside North Korea — helped Google fill in the map and identify the locations of places ranging from Pyongyang's golf courses for the elite to labor camps housing political prisoners. [Video: North Korean Prison Camps Revealed by Google Maps]
The Google Map changes debuted just weeks after Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, visited North Korea as part of a private delegation in early January. But Google may not have anticipated exactly how many Google Plus users would use the online reviews to mainly "troll" North Korea.
Such commentary took on an even darker tone in the "reviews" of the North Korean gulags that reportedly house thousands of political prisoners in miserable conditions. Brian Ashcraft, an editor for the gaming website Kotaku, highlighted the more choice remarks about camps in places such as Chongjin, North Korea's third largest city.
"Spent 9 years before escaping," said Tore Sinding Bekkedel, Google Plus user. "What a tourist trap. Unfriendly natives. Only recommended as weight loss program."