PhD student Curtis Melvin uses Google Maps to uncover North Korea’s secrets

North Korea has a reputation as one of the most secretive, authoritarian, repressive countries in the world. But that doesn’t stop Curtis Melvin, a PhD student at George Mason University, from trying to shine some light into the country’s dark corners.

Using knowledge gleaned from his own trips to North Korea, as well as tips from many others who have visited, Curtis and his crew of civilian spies have managed to plot into Google Maps previously unknown sites in North Korea such as secret prison camps, vast burial mounds, and missile storage facilities. His interactive project, called “North Korea Uncovered,” has literally thousands of entries and is the most exhaustive map of North Korea to date.

The Wall Street Journal recently had a front-page article about Curtis’ project called “Gulags, Nukes and a Water Slide: Citizen Spies Lift North Korea’s Veil.” “Mr. Melvin and his correspondents have plotted out what they say is much of the country’s transportation network and electrical grid, and many of its military bases,” according to the article. “They’ve spotted what they believe are mass graves created in the 1995-98 famine that killed an estimated two million people. The vast complexes of Mr. Kim and other North Korean leaders are visible, with palatial homes, pools, even a water slide.”

The fascinating map is available for download here. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow recently chatted with Curtis about the project here. Gadling’s own first-person coverage of the secretive country, “Infiltrating North Korea,” is here.