Citizen activists have been pooling information about North Korea in order to reveal the locations of hidden prisons and other sites of interest in the humanitarian effort to effect greater transparency on the isolated regime.
“Seeking clues in photos, news reports and eyewitness accounts,” the Wall Street Journal reports, citizen activists “affix labels to North Korean structures and landscapes captured by Google Earth, an online service that stitches satellite pictures into a virtual globe.”
Curtis Melvin, a doctoral candidate at George Mason University in Virginia, has been using the Google Earth platform as well as information from various sources, including former members of the U.S. military who once studied the country professionally, to create a more informative map of the country. “Once you start mapping the power plants and substations and wires, you can connect the infrastructure with the elite compounds,” Mr. Melvin says. “And then you see towns that have no power supply at all.”
Melvin’s work, and the work of other individuals, illustrate how collective intelligence, coupled with available technology, has a shrinking effect on our world; that the spread of knowledge cannot be contained and that governmental secrecy is facing a new challenge from the Internet. “Google has made a witness of all of us,” says Mr. Brownback (Senator of Kansas). “We can no longer deny these things exist.”
Joshua Stanton, who maintains the website Free Korea has mapped out the confines of Camp 22, a labor camp and detention facility on the northeastern tip of North Korea.
“Camp 22 is said to hold 50,000 men, women, and children. We can only see one portion of the camp with Google Earth’s high-resolution photography.”
Revealing maps and documented information about labor camps and other secret facilities has aided Human Rights activists such as David Hawk, who, working for the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, has published a paper titled “The Hidden Gulag” based on these findings.
“The media have also failed to tell this story. The few reporters who go to North Korea seldom venture far from the capital, Pyongyang. When they do go, Internal Security Bureau minders drive them all along pretty much the same circuit of palaces, tombs, and monuments. None ever gets within miles of Camp 22, and few ask. Still, they bring us back footage of tombs and monuments and strident quotes from their minders and tell us how much more we now know about North Korea than we did before. Until the international media decides to cover the story of Camp 22, it will remain out of sight and out of mind.”
Other community efforts for the free distribution of information include WikiLeaks which aims to reveal unethical behavior in governments and institutions worldwide. The site maintains disclosed documents that are “classified, censored or otherwise opaque to the public record” and relies on readers to alert their community and the press about revelations found here.