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Google adds detail to map of North Korea

Google recently updated its map to include more detail of the North Korea -- a country rarely seen by the outside world.

Although Americans can travel to the Asian nation, it is not encouraged by the U.S. State Department, which warns that "travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea without proper documentation have been subject to arrest and long-term detention." However, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt recently made the trip on a humanitarian envoy lead by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, calling for an open Internet in the communist nation.

"For a long time, one of the largest places with limited map data has been North Korea. But today we are changing that with the addition of more detailed maps of North Korea in Google Maps," Jayanth Mysore, Google Map Maker product manager, said on a blog post.

Google used the help of a group of "citizen cartographers" who spent years updating the map of North Korea using Google Map Maker -- a feature that lets users add details to Google Maps.

Google posted before and after samples maps of Pyongyang, showing the contrast in details. In previous versions of Google Maps, North Korea's capital is desolate and lacking of any detail. The updated map shows roads and borders.

Here are screenshots of Pyongyang before and after on Google Maps:

North Korea's capital Pyongyang on Google Maps before the update. Google
North Korea's capital Pyongyang on Google Maps after the update. Google

The search giant acknowledges the map is not perfect, but calls creating maps a "crucial first step" toward exploring parts of the world that are otherwise unfamiliar.

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