North Korea Mapping Guide

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North Korea Mapping Guide - Banner 04.png

The North Korea Mapping Guide provides an inventory of tags used to map objects in North Korea. It is intended for all contributors who wish to map, and who do not know how to analyse satellite imagery specifically in this country. Both novices and experienced contributors may have difficulty describing objects. This guide prescribes the tags to use. It is a tool for finding the right tag to use.

This inventory is structured in several sections.

  • The first section, "Foreword and Tips", lists a set of practices and tips for coordinating contributors.
  • The "Transport" section lists the routes according to their classification. It indicates the tags to use for railway infrastructure.
  • The next section, "Zone", lists tags to describe land use, and energy generation and transmission infrastructure.
  • The 'Building' section lists tags for buildings, buildings with a political or social function, and monuments. The '3D Building' section lists the current tags for 3D description in the country.
  • The penultimate section, "Notes and References", contains explanatory notes and links to the documents that were used to write this guide.
  • The last section, "Appendices", gathers articles on the analysis of satellite imagery of the country, and points to the OSM community spaces.

Foreword and tips

Outdoor mapping in North Korea is difficult because accessing the terrain is difficult[1], micromapping is even more so. There are no local contributors, as there is no internet access. Let's use armchair mapping. We are dependent on satellite imagery and their qualities for mapping the country.

  • Align the imagery with the elements already drawn, but don't let the stories about the mismatch stop you.

Very often there is a mismatch between the imagery and the existing paths and points. This is the consequence of a lack of an accessible geodetic benchmark that would allow an alignment.

  • Do not offset points already created on an image as each other image would cascade an offset.
  • Choose the background map Maxar.

The Bing images have a good resolution for North Korea but the images are dull and without much colour. In contrast, Maxar images are less accurate but more colourful and more pleasant to use. The Maxar Premium images are more accurate than the Standard ones, and should be preferred.

Transport

Road (highway)

Openstreetmap logo.svg To find well-mapped roads, see the city of Pyongyang.

Roads are more difficult to map than in other countries, as we do not have an accurate map of the roads and their classification.

If you are not sure which tag to use to describe the road, it doesn't matter, the route is the most important thing. If someone thinks you have used the wrong tag on a route, they will change it. It will be much quicker for them to change the tag than to re-trace the whole road.

The most common tags for routes are the following:

  • Rendering-highway trunk carto.png way Highway, to be described with tag highway=trunk
  • Rendering-highway primary carto.png way Primary route, to be described with tag highway=primary
  • Rendering-highway secondary carto.png way Secondary road, to be described with tag highway=secondary
  • Rendering-highway tertiary carto.png way Tertiary route, to be described with the tag highway=tertiary
  • Rendering-highway residential.png way Residential road, for roads within residential areas, to be described with the tag highway=residential
  • Rendering-highway service.png way Access road, for roads leading to a particular dwelling in a residential area, to be described with the tag highway=service
  • Rendering-highway unclassified.png way Minor or unclassified route, to be described with the tag highway=unclassified
  • Rendering-highway track.png way Agricultural or forestry track, for paths in the countryside through field or forest, to be described with the tag highway=track
  • Rendering-highway path.png way Path, for footpaths (often quite thin), to be described with the tag highway=path (it can be indicated embankment=yes if this path is on an embankment)

The majority of the population travels by foot and bicycle on the country's roads. Only 800km out of 787,000km are paved[2], so it is more useful to indicate when the road is paved (surface=paved) than when it is unpaved (surface=unpaved).

Train (railway)

OOjs UI icon reference.svg Wiki page Railway stations

North Korea's railway infrastructure is similar to those of other countries in the world:

Zone (landuse, natural)

The most recurrent areas are :

There are more precise tags than the first six:

In the urban areas or close to the cities, the following areas can be found:

School (school)

Farmyard (farmyard)


Mine (quarry)

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Article on an example, Musan Silver Mine - AccessDPRK

Energy

Electricity (power)

Electricity networks are composed of these elements:

Poles, pylons and power lines are complicated to locate. You have to help yourself to the long, thin shadows they leave on the ground to identify them. The spacing between each tower or pole in a network is regular, so it is possible to estimate where a pole or tower should be located and to search in that area. Electrical substations are often surrounded by poles or towers, and are composed of small dark elements close together with short shadows.

Pylon and tower (pole, tower)
Electrical substation (substation)

Water (water, waterway)

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Article on an example, Tanchon hydroelectric project and continuation, Manpo-Changchuan dam construction - AccessDPRK

There are different types of dams on rivers:

  • Dam node.svg way Dam, to be described with tag waterway=dam; this is the most common structure to dam a stream, and form a retention lake
  • Weir node.svg way Weir or small dam, to be described with the tag waterway=weir; it is an obstacle smaller than waterway=dam that allows water to spill over it

There are different types of waterways:

Locating the route of rivers is the most important, as for routes. The classification of waterways is to be assessed on a case by case basis. The finest waterways are tagged with waterway=ditch.

If you have identified a waterway, follow its course until it crosses a road. If it is a waterway, it should have a bridge or ford. If not, it is a road. Look to see if it is connected to a larger water system.

The retention lake created by a dam is to be described with the two tags natural=water and water=reservoir.

  • closed way Pumping station, to be described with the tag man_made=pumping_station; it is a building used for drainage or irrigation. It is in the immediate vicinity of a watercourse and is often close to an agricultural area, connected by ditches/channels.
Barrage (dam, weir)
  • Dam node.svg way Dam, to be described with tag waterway=dam; this is the most common structure to dam a stream, and form a retention lake
  • Weir node.svg way Threshold or small dam, to be described with tag waterway=weir; it is a barrier smaller than waterway=dam that allows water to spill over it
Pumping station (pumping_station)
  • closed way Pumping station, to be described with the tag man_made=pumping_station; it is a building used for drainage or irrigation. It is in the immediate vicinity of a watercourse and is often close to an agricultural area, connected by ditches (ditch) and channels (canal).

Cemetry (cemetery)

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg [Detailed theme article - AccessDPRK

At the end of the Korean traditional funeral rite, a mound of earth and grass is erected over the graves[4], making it possible to recognize its graves from satellite imagery.

There are two types of cemeteries, described with the same landuse=cemetery tag:

  • Landuse-cemetery.png area Orderly cemeteries, consisting of clearly demarcated mounds (image 1, 2 and 3).
  • Landuse-cemetery.png area Messy cemeteries, created during the period of the "the arduous march" (famine from the years 1994 to 1998), more irregular and without clear demarcation on large and sometimes hilly areas, which look like bomb hits from satellite imagery (image 3 to 6)[5].

Public market (marketplace)

Public markets in North Korea have a structure recognisable from satellite imagery.

They are bounded by walls, in principle. They are made up of stalls, which are rectangular structures that are very close to each other. These stalls are smaller in width than a house by a greater or lesser length, the stalls are often arranged in an orderly fashion sometimes along an axis that runs through the market[6]. Markets are located in cities, from satellite views the roof is grey or white (the classic colour of the country's buildings) or very rarely red or blue[7].

Sports field (pitch, sport)

Sports pitches are concentrated in large urban areas. They can be identified by the markings on the ground. The most common sports pitches are: basketball, football, volleyball, badminton. The colour of the field does not follow any rule, they can be directly traced on the asphalt or be blue, red, green, etc.

Traffic park (traffic_park)

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Detailed Topic Article - UPI, North Korea Travel, and Access DPRK

Traffic parks are areas for children to learn road safety rules.

These areas are composed of:

  • asphalt roads, to be described with the tag highway=cycleway and access=private
  • L-shaped buildings with a rounded inner corner
    • Traffic park 39.01865 125.65724.png
      (building=yes), located within the park enclosure, in the centre of the circuit.
    • Traffic park 38.98111 125.71891.png
      (building=yes), located in one corner of the park enclosure.

Industry (industrial, man_made)

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Article on an example, Kim Chaek steel complex - 38 North] (Openstreetmap logo.svg)

Industrial areas use many tags with the keys industrial=*, power=* and man_made=*.

The most frequent and recognizable values in this country are:

Storage tank (storage_tank)

A storage tank is a container for compressed liquids or gases. It can be identified by its circular shape. Its roof is white or sometimes grey. The tanks are grouped together.

Military

For a complete list of what can be mapped in a military area see military=*.

Tank Trap (tank_trap)

Tank traps are stone pillars along roads in the vicinity of the DMZ in the south of the country. These pillars are defence systems that are knocked down on the road to prevent the advance of tanks.

These pillars are placed at strategic locations, such as before or after a bridge, in a valley, along a highway.

Building

Building in city centre

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Detailed article on the topic - AccessDPRK

Towns and villages, very often concentrate the following three elements in their town centre: a town hall, a tower of immortality and a building for cultural activities. The "tower of immortality"[8] is a kind of obelisk. This tower is sometimes accompanied by a mural[9], statues are rarer and are mainly found in Pyongyang and in the centre of major cities as well as medium-sized towns.

From satellite imagery, immortality towers, murals and statues leave a shadow on the ground. This shadow varies in size; immortality towers leave a long, straight shadow, statues leave a short, imprecise shadow, murals leave a short, wide shadow.

Small towns and villages use one building for all 'cultural' activities, it acts as an ideological study hall and theatre. Large cities have different buildings for theatres and study rooms.

The buildings in the town centre can be described as follows:

And more rarely :

Points of interest

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Detailed article on the topic, historical places, giant slogans - AccessDPRK

North Korea is dotted with many monuments to the glory of the regime and its leaders, such as the immortality tower, murals, statues etc.

Photo view from the ground of a tower of immortality of a mural as well as an agricultural area and an access road, Tongbong Cooperative Farm.

Each of these elements is mapped with a node.

  1. Create way a line and node a point for each letter. The line represents the attachment system to the ground. Both the line and the point are described with the two tags artwork_type=sculpture and tourism=artwork.
  2. Create node a point with each letter as a relationship (which is tagged with the following four tags tourism=attraction and man_made=sign and landmark=sign.
  3. Create relation the type=site relationship between all the elements drawn in steps 1 and 2. In the "role" field enter the word "label".
Openstreetmap logo.svg Example of the sign "HOLLYWOOD" in the United States, on OSM.
  • Giant propaganda slogans directly inscribed on the ground, are to be described with man_made=geoglyph and transcribe the hangeul symbols with inscription=*.

Tower of Immortality (memorial)

Statue (statue, artwork)

Giant slogan (sign)

Openstreetmap logo.svg Example of mapping with the "HOLLYWOOD" sign in the United States.
  • Giant propaganda slogans with support require several steps to be mapped:
  1. Create way a line and node a point for each letter. The line represents the attachment system to the ground. Both the line and the point are described with the two tags artwork_type=sculpture and tourism=artwork.
  2. Create node a point with each letter as a relationship, which is tagged with the following three tags tourism=attraction and man_made=sign and landmark=sign.
  3. Create relation the type=site relationship between all the elements plotted in steps 1 and 2. In the "role" field enter the word "label".

Pagoda (memorial)

Propaganda stele (memorial)

The memorials are located close to other propaganda monuments in the city centres of major cities. The steles are difficult to recognize with satellite imagery of average quality.

Petrol station (fuel)

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Detailed topic article – Beyond Parallel and on AccessDPRK

Fuel stations are characterised by a flat roof without walls supported by several poles. They are often located next to or in large urban areas, along major roads with quick access to the road.

Petrol stations are recognisable from satellite imagery taken at the end of the day. They show a long shadow that hints at the wall-less structure resting on the poles.

Use the late day shots to confirm that this is a petrol station.

Communication tower (tower, communication)

OOjs UI icon newWindow-ltr.svg Detailed topic article - AccessDPRK

A communications tower[12], is a small building with an antenna, recognizable by a long shadow cast. It is located on the top of the plains occupied by cities, or on reliefs.

3D Building

OOjs UI icon reference.svg Page wiki 3D Buildings

Buildings in North Korea in the countryside have a rectangular shape, while in the city they have a more complex shape to map. One way to see the result is to access the link demoF4map for example.

Height and floor

Below is an excerpt from Simple 3D Buildings, which condenses the most common building and roof types in North Korea.

Schematic example of using level and height tags
Key Comment
height=* The distance from the ground to the top of the roof, excluding antennas, wind vanes and other roof-mounted equipment.
building:levels=* Number of floors of the building above ground level (without the roof level), allows you to texture the building in a simple way.

If you are adding new buildings, try to give a height value with height=*. Try to use building:levels=* only in addition to the height=* tag!

Roof

You can describe the roof of a building with different tags, the most common ones in North Korea are the following:

Image Roof Flat.png Roof Gabled.png Roof Hipped.png Roof Round.png
roof:shape flat gabled hipped round
Meaning flat gabled hipped round

Notes and references

  1. It is conceivable to go into the field on a language or tourist trip but the area is rather limited to Pyongyang in principle.
  2. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military//world/dprk/roads.htm
  3. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military//world/dprk/economy1.htm
  4. In English, cemetry or mound or burial mound
  5. During the famine of the 1990s, there were too many deaths at the same time, this forced North Koreans to find new places to bury their dead. The hills surrounding cities and villages served this function (in English grave mound); More details on the relationship of Koreans to their dead on this article: A very North Korean way to die - NK News
  6. Researcher Jenny Town describes it as "long, narrow, blue-roofed, single-story buildings" (Jenny Town, 2020, The Uses and Challenges of Satellite Imagery in Researching North Korea')
  7. Public markets were created after the famine of the 1990s by a formal integration of some illegal markets into the country's legal economic system. Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea: New Evidence from Satellite Imagery, Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, October 2015, Read online (abstract)
  8. In English, Tower of Eternal Life or Immortality Tower or Tower of Immortality'
  9. 9.0 9.1 In English, mural or murals
  10. In English City People's Commitees or town hall, (시인민위원회)
  11. Juche Study Hall (주체연구실) or Palace of culture (문화궁전). Jacob Bogle defines it as "Every town has at least one 'Juche Study Hall', they go by a number of different names including, palace of culture (문화궁전) and Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism study hall (김일성-김정일 주의연구실). These basically play the equivalent role of churches in Europe and the Americas in centuries past. Centrally located, this is where people are required to go multiple times a month (at least) to be indoctrinated in the latest Party orders, to learn about the exploits of the leadership, and to hold "self-criticism" sessions." These are community places, for public gatherings and events etc. This existed in China, the USSR and socialist countries more generally
  12. In English, communications tower

Appendices

Related articles

External resources

Sites

Academic articles

Press articles

Others

Community