The best user reviews on Google’s new map of North Korea

The new user-generated Google Map of North Korea unveiled with some fanfare on the company''s blog Monday is a bit less than it initally seems. It isn't the most detailed publicly available map of North Korea. It's not even the most detailed map produced by Google -- that title belongs to the North Korea Uncovered project, produced by Google Earth, which has truly extensive mapping of the isolated country from its dams to its power stations and even its restaurants. (The head of that project, Curtis Melvin, comes off a touch bitter about all the attention the new Google Maps project has received in this Wall Street Journal story).

Where Google Maps does win out, however, is in easy accessibility (North Korea Uncovered requires a few downloads before it's usable). As an added bonus, the user review feature has produced a bit of a snarkfest. Users have left reviews on North Korean landmarks ranging from parks and monuments to gulags and nuclear testing facilities. While some are earnest, the vast majority are decidedly not. Here's a sampling of what's been posted:

Nuclear Test Facility, North Hamgyong, North Korea

Of all the barren, post-nuclear, wastelands I have visited this was by far the best. Of course Los Alamos is the classic, but no where else do you feel the warmth of the radioactive decay take you in its soft embrace quite as vividly as in the Hamgyong Nuclear Test Facility. However, be warned, reservations are required, as Hamgyong, is very exclusive. In fact, it is not uncommon to encounter the upper echelons of North Korean society. Once, I even met the North's biggest film star, Zao Xioping, who has stared in such famous films as, "Glory to the Industrial Proletariat in Their Moment of Triumph Over the Decadent Capitalists," and of course who could forget his appearance in the 2010 classic "Kim Il Sung and the Temple of Doom." If you're visiting the nearby Hamgyong Concentration Camp, the Nuclear Test Facility is a must!!



Hwasong Gulag

Whilst it doesn't have the international reputation of Bukchang, Hwasong is certainly worth a visit for any gulag enthusiast.

-Chloe G.


Kumsusan Memorial Palace, Pyongyang

I found the fish tacos to be really underwhelming

-Richie Heimbrock


East Pyongyang Market, Pyongyang

Service is good, but selection is sub-par.

-Nicholas Toecker

Just a handful of what's out there, and there will surely be more to come


Posthumous trial of Russian lawyer delayed

The trial of Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky officially began yesterday, but has been postponed for several weeks. This was not, as one might expect, because Magnitsky died in prison more than three years ago, but because his defense team has chosen not to participate in the bizarre proceeding: 

In Monday’s hearing, it was unclear who or what, exactly, went on trial. Mr. Magnitsky’s co-defendant, William F. Browder, the manager of the Hermitage Capital hedge fund, has been barred from entering Russia since 2005, so he did not appear in court.

The hearing was of a type in Russian practice that indicates that the police consider their work complete, and that the case can go to trial, Aleksandra V. Bereznina, a spokeswoman for Tverskoi Regional Court, said in an interview.

Judge Igor B. Alisov promptly postponed the trial because the defendants did not appear in the courtroom — as expected — but neither did lawyers representing their interests.[...]

The hearing took place in a closed courtroom. The defendants’ chairs were unoccupied, Ms. Bereznina said. Mr. Browder and relatives of Mr. Magnitsky have said they will boycott the proceedings.

Posthumous trials are nearly unheard of in modern law. The AP's Jim Heintz has attempted a listicle of other examples, but the most recent is Hitler's personal secretary Martin Borman, who was tried in absentia at Nuremberg but later turned out to have been dead at the time. The others are all macabre examples from centuries ago like the posthumous beheading of Oliver Cromwell and the infamous Cadaver Synod of 897. 

Browder wrote about the case for FP last March.