Google Earth: Zooming in on the forbidden sites of North Korea

It sure is tough to be a hermit kingdom these days with Google Earth constantly peering into your business.

Take North Korea, for example. Just a few years ago, it was impossible for Americans to visit this reclusive country and Kim Jong Il was happy. Now, a few hundred Americans are let in each summer to view a small sliver of the country. It thought I was pretty special being one of them. It turns out, however, that armchair travelers can sit at their computers and do a much better job of zooming into all those secret airfields, bases, and palaces which our guides kept hidden from us on the ground.

One of the most outstanding things I’ve ever seen on Google Earth is an extraordinarily exhaustive mashup detailing countless military installations, concentration camps, monuments, palaces, government buildings, and other “off limit” sites throughout North Korea. I’ve just spent most of the evening zeroing in on all the places I visited in Pyongyang and then backing up the view to check out the surrounding areas we were prohibited from seeing.

Most unnerving are the rows and rows of work camp barracks located in the north of the country (above) that are clearly visible. All the cleanliness and order of Pyongyang almost makes one forget such atrocities exist in North Korea.

If you’ve got some time, spend a few minutes surfing through these enthralling yet bizarre satellite images of North Korea; because when things look off from outer space, you just know they’re far worse at ground level.