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Google Earth helps in unmaking horrific North Korean prison camps

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The freely available computer application Google Earth, which helps users map out destinations, has unexpectedly done something in the service of humanity as a whole. A secret network of North Korean prison camps has been made highly visible, and with it a newfound knowledge of horrific human rights abuses by that country.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's believed that more than 200,000 prisoners are kept there to perform forced labor. Amnesty International has applauded the use of Google Earth in helping to reveal the truth in one of the world's most secretive states.

Amnesty, banned in the old hard-line Communist country, said inmates have to go to almost unimaginable lengths to survive the camps where starvation, disease and executions are everyday.
 
"[Camp] inmates have been reduced to eating rats or picking corn kernels out of animal waste to survive, and an estimated 40 percent of detainees die of malnutrition," Spokesman Neil Durkin says.

"For years the North Korean authorities have tried to deny the very existence of these camps - so if commercial satellite mapping can help support what we've been able to show about the extent of a secret network of prison camps, then it could be helpful in putting pressure on the authorities to get them closed down."
 
Google chairman Eric Schmidt has been criticized in recent weeks after he visited the secretive state headed by Kim Jong Un on what was called "personal travel."

Many were angry at the timing of Schmidt's visit to a country with notoriously restrictive online policies, just weeks after a controversial rocket launch that was condemned by Washington.

Washington lawyer Joshua Stanton, who blogs on North Korean human rights, said the trip is insignificant compared to Google's yeoman work in revealing the truth about the state.

"The good that Google has done, however inadvertently, by helping people tell the truth about North Korea, will probably be reflected in the history of the country one day."

Stanton has used the tool to compile details of six prisoner camps, including three that he identified. The images have been used to pinpoint burial grounds, guard houses and gates on vast camps that are made to look like villages.

Stanton helped identify Camp 16 where he says more than 10,000 men, women and children are imprisoned.

Images have also been taken of Camp 22 which houses about 50,000 people and where prisoners are forced to stone each other to death, women are regularly raped and an estimated 2,000 people die a year.
 

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