Archive for Google Earth

Power Hungry: 40.179N, 126.350E

You really can’t see any hint of it in this image, but this is the Huichon Number Two Power Station, the one that allegedly caused Kim Jong Il’s fatal vapor lock because the crappy concrete used to build it cracked when the reservoir was filled.  Or so the unverified rumor holds.

Epic Fail-40.179N, 126.350E

You can see video of the dam here, a KNCAP report here that makes no reference to the dam’s problems, some cool pictures here (see #36), and more interesting stuff from Curtis here.

I’m skeptical of the “tantrum death” story, as I am of all stories sourced from within Pyongyang’s palace intrigues.  Nor is it clear that Huichon was an engineering failure, or a great engineering success.  There is some evidence that the dam has helped brighten a few elite showpiece construction projects in downtown Pyongyang, but according to the Daily NK, even most residents of Pyongyang aren’t getting much more electricity than they were before.

Can you identify this aircraft?

I always thought I knew my airplanes, but I’ve searched through everything known to be in the Chinese inventory, and I cannot identify this one.

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 7.14.58 AM

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 7.14.09 AM

This is a PLAF (Chinese) air base, just across the river from Sinuiju, North Korea.

The Fulcrum: 39°24’43.50″N, 125°53’25.70″E

Nearly all of the North Korean aircraft you can see on its airfields are ancient MiGs — 60s vintage or older.  But Sunchon Air Base, the home of the 57th Air Regiment, is where North Korea keeps some of its more modern aircraft — its Su-25 ground attack aircraft, and its MiG-29 fighters.

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 9.17.25 PM

On October 14, 2010, the North Korean ground crews rolled their wares out of their underground hangars.  It was a bright, clear day, giving us an excellent view when a passing satellite snapped these pictures of the aircraft lined up just outside the shelter entrances, like snakes sunning themselves on a rock.

MiG-29 base @ 1400' 14oct2010

MiG-29 base @ 3000'

These two examples, parked on the edge of the runway, give us a better look.

MiG-29s @ 600' 14oct2010

The Road Not Traveled: 40.013N, 126.154E

North Korean public works priorities are a thing to behold. Not far south of Huichon, in central North Korea, I followed a modern-looking superhighway northward to this dramatic terminus at a Bridge to Nowhere. Older (and newer) images on Google Earth show this project has been stalled for a decade.

The Road Not Traveled - 40.013N, 126.154E

You can scan north from here and see miles of disused roadbed overgrown with farm plots, punctuated by the pilings of the unbuilt bridges.

Now have a look at this new highway that appeared out of nowhere, headed south along the east near Hamhung. This is what it looked like three months ago:

New Hwy Constr. Nov. 2012

This is what it looked like two years ago:

New Hwy Mar. 2011

Kim Jong Un personality cult now visible to space aliens.

I was snooping around the Hyesan area this weekend, taking in some very recent (October 2012) imagery, when I spotted a propaganda sign — clearly not one of those I’d posted about before. It was next to this reservoir:

Dam @ 11K', Oct. 2012

Look what happens when you switch to the next-most recent image, from October 2005:

Dam @ 11K', Oct. 2005

So all of this is new construction.

Kim Jong Un sign Oct. 2012, 5800'

It says, “Long live Songun Korea’s General Kim Jong Un!,” or somesuch nonsense. But at least they got the damn dam done (I’ve always wanted to say that). In case you’re wondering, this does not appear to be the same dam that cracked as soon as they filled it in, reportedly causing Kim Jong Il’s final vapor lock.

North Korea may be the only country on earth that can be psychoanalyzed from outer space. Imagine what the aliens must think of us. Most likely, they think we’re a backward and obedient species — perfect for enslaving and putting to work in their underground sugar caves.

Welcome, Reuters and N.Y. Times Readers Entire World

Well, thank you, Reuters Asia Correspondent Paul Eckert.  That was a very nice story, and I’m glad to see that the Times picked it up.

This story needs to be told, and unfortunately, right now, only a few of us are telling it.  My hope is that one day, reporters will work directly with defectors and professional imagery analysts to tell it instead, and I can find a new hobby.

Update: Overnight, the Reuters story was picked up by news sites all over the United States, Britain, and India, and translated into Spanish, Finnish, Russian, Czech, and Japanese. The servers seems barely capable of keeping up with the traffic, so please be patient. Things should be back to normal in a day or two. It’s more than worth it to get this issue into the news.

For those who are wondering what you can do to help, I’d recommend two particularly effective non-partisan, non-sectarian, international groups: the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, which does scholarly research, and LiNK, which helps North Korean refugees. You could even set up Wikipedia pages (see this and this) in your native language.

Update, Jan. 11, 2012:  So as of today, this has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Romanian, Italian, Finnish, and Japanese, and also ran in newspapers in India, the U.K., the Philippines, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland. The Chosun Ilbo also got hold of it eventually, and appears to think my name is Joshuya, that I’m a human rights lawyer (not quite), and that I lived in Korea in the 90s (actually, until 2002). Also, no link? Really? But at least someone in South Korea is talking about this topic.

Camp 25, Confirmed

North Korean witnesses have now confirmed that the site I first located in January 2010 is indeed Camp 25, the final residence of approximately 3,000 political prisoners. At the bottom of the updated page, you will see that the witnesses also make a truly ghastly revelation about one of the buildings in the prison grounds.

New Page on Camp 16 and Mt. Mantap Nuclear Test Site

This took months to create, so I hope you find it interesting. I also hope this page can be seen as a complement to the new edition of The Hidden Gulag, which didn’t post any imagery of this camp.

Blatant Plagiarism in the London Daily Telegraph (Update: The Telegraph Credits, Links OFK)

pla ·gia ·rism /ˈpleɪdʒəˌrɪzÉ™m, -dÊ’iəˌrɪz-/ [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-] ““noun 1. the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.

You know, I write this with some ambivalence, because I’m always glad to see that the result of many, many hours of scouring North Korea on Google Earth, of poring through scholarly reports, and of cross-checking clues has brought much-needed attention to the horrors of North Korea’s prison camps. Attracting that kind of attention to this story is the whole purpose of all of the work I did to research and publish this information. Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining that major news sites would want to steal my work.

Of course, the readers of this Daily Telegraph photo essay might learn a great deal more if they could see the images in the context in which I published them, along with the text and video clips with which they’re presented. And perhaps because I’ve never seen dime one from all of the hard work I put into this, it angers me to see my work published below slick banner ads from airlines, sports promotions, or advocacy groups with big budgets … without any attribution whatsoever.

Compare and contrast. Screen grabs from the Telegraph on the left; my original images on the right. Click any image for full size, and you’ll see that the altitudes match down to the foot, and that the coordinates match down to the thousandth of a degree:

telegraph4.jpg Camp 22 guard post

telegraph3.jpg Camp 22

telegraph2.jpg camp 22 gate

The Chosun Ilbo, which cites the Telegraph’s photo essay, but had no way of knowing what the Telegraph’s original source was. I don’t blame them. And again, I’m glad to see these images in front of more eyes. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent wondering who these people were and what ever became of them. Now, others will wonder, too, which means that I’ve accomplished something here.

In the next image, you can still see my distinctive yellow arrow placemarks on the screen grab from the Telegraph, and the caption for the image is copied verbatim from this page.
telegraph1.jpg sinuiju prison

The Telegraph’s caption:

Labour-rehabilitation camps, or kyo-hwa-so, are usually built in a penitentiary style with perimeter walls and guard towers, and hold populations of up to 10,000 political prisoners, economic criminals, and ordinary criminals

My text:

Labor-rehabilitation camps, or kyo-hwa-so, are usually built in a penitentiary style with perimeter walls and guard towers, and hold populations of up to 10,000 political prisoners, economic criminals, and ordinary criminals.

To be clear, I am accusing the Telegraph of stealing images and text directly from this website and republishing them on its own website for commercial use, without my permission, and without attribution. As of the time of publication of this post, there’s no link or attribution at the Telegraph’s site. That is something no ethical journalist would do.

I’ll let Curtis speak for himself, but the Telegraph appears to have borrowed liberally from his research, too. “Research” is the operative word here. I don’t claim any rights over the satellite imagery; it’s the analysis that’s my intellectual property, without which you might not know what you’re looking at.

Really — if the Telegraph had just bothered to ask me for permission, I would have gladly given them permission to republish, asking only for attribution in return. I’m not in this for the money. The Telegraph can keep the ad revenue, or better yet, let me designate a charity to receive it. All would be forgiven.

So is a little attribution so much to ask?

Update, June 3, 2010:

The Daily Telegraph is now crediting OFK for the four images in question, and even added some nice links. I want to publicly thank the Telegraph for doing the right thing, crediting this site, and for taking the extra step of inserting the links and the complimentary words.

Above all, I want to thank them for showing interest in Camp 22 at all, and informing its readers about atrocities that are paradoxically both massive in scale and widely ignored.

New Camp 25, Camp 12 Pages

Although I don’t claim that my preliminary identification of the site of Camp 25, Chongjin is yet confirmed by witnesses, two of the former Chongjin residents whose stories are told in Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy” provide a degree of circumstantial corroboration. Judge the evidence for yourself here; however, I can’t say for certain that the site is a prison at all until a credible witness confirms it.

I’ve also put up a new page on Camp 12, Chongo-ri. Most of the information there was published previously, although I’ve added some newly available, much clearer imagery. Working through David Hawk and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, I was able to obtain witness confirmation that this is the site of Camp 12 in October of 2009.