Summary of Presentation on North Korean Prison Camps Map


Geo-surveillance is a revolutionary form of mapping. Or is it really mapping? Are photographs maps? Despite this common argument, geo-surveillance has transformed cartography. Nowadays, mapping is mainly done my machines, such as satellites. As a result of the vast technological advances in the world of cartography, several companies allow anyone to create maps. This is drastically different than in the previous eras of mapping when only expert cartographers had the ability to create maps. The fact that anyone can create maps on programs, such as Google Map Maker, makes maps more advanced and accurate because while satellites take aerial pictures, cartographers might have trouble determining what the subject matter in each photograph is; however, “citizen cartographers” can identify what constitutes each picture with certainty as opposed to a cartographer’s best guess. Having satellites that can take pictures of any place on the globe allows countries, such as the United States, to have a “digital empire.” The United States has to power to see what is going on in every country, even those countries that try to hide what happens within their borders. With the use of satellites, the United States was able to spot prison camps in North Korea, despite the North Korean government stating that these camps do not exist.

These North Korean Prison camps are each hundreds of square miles and contain a total of approximately two-hundred thousand prisoners. These prisoners were placed in the camps for crimes that would not be considered crimes by most other countries, such as denouncing the North Korean government or praising South Korea. Not only are these people placed in the prisons, but their families to three generations can be placed in the camps. The camps are work camps where the conditions are extremely harsh, such as freezing temperatures, starvation, and long work days. The fact that satellites were able to expose these camps has made human rights organizations take action; this is an example of how the new era of cartography allows for social change. However, there is not enough media attention for much to actually get done.

Geo-surveillance has created a more connected and “shrinking” world. We are able to see anywhere on the globe with the click of a button. This knowledge allows the United States to have power because nothing is invisible any more. Cartography has come such a long way in the past few decades. However, geo-surveillance has been the biggest step forward in the history of cartography; it is a new revolutionized form that simplifies cartography and makes things that were once impossible, achievable.


By S.K. and M.B.

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