North Korea Mapping Guide
The North Korea Mapping Guide provides advice for mapping specific objects in North Korea.
North Korea Mapping Guide
Mapping North Korea is made difficult by the fact that access to the terrain is not possible (or very difficult), and that there is no local contributor (no access to the internet). Outdoor mapping is therefore not possible.
So we have to use armchair mapping. We are therefore dependent on satellite images and their quality for mapping the country.
The Bing images have a good resolution for North Korea but the images are dull and without much colour. On the other hand, Maxar images are less accurate but more colourful and therefore, in my opinion, more pleasant to use (Premium images are more accurate than Standard ones, so Maxar Premium images are preferable).
On the other hand, there is very often a mismatch between the imagery and the existing paths and points. This is due to the fact that there are no geodetic datum available in North Korea that allow alignment between the satellite images and these landmarks. It is preferable to continue mapping by aligning the image with features already plotted to be as close as possible. In short, there is no point in shifting all the points already created on an imagery since every other imagery would cascade an offset. TLDR; contribute without worrying too much about the offset, and don't let map offset stories stop you.
Roads in North Korea are more difficult to map than in other countries, mainly because we do not have an accurate map of the roads and their classification.
If you are not sure what tag to use to describe the road it doesn't matter, the most important thing is the route. If someone thinks you have used the wrong tag on a road, they will change it later (and it will be much quicker for them to change the tag than to re-trace the whole road).
For roads in North Korea, the ones mainly used are the following:
- highway trunk, to be describe with the tag highway=trunk
- highway primary, to be describe with the tag highway=primary
- highway secondary, to be describe with the tag highway=secondary
- highway tertiary, to be describe with the tag highway=tertiary
- highway residential, for roads within residential areas, to be describe with the tag highway=residential
- highway service, for roads leading, for example, to a particular house in a residential area, to be describe with the tag highway=service.
- highway unclassified, to be describe with the tag highway=unclassified
- highway track, for country roads through fields and forests, to be describe with the tag highway=track.
Buildings in city centre
Cities and towns in North Korea very often concentrate the following elements in their city centre: a city hall, a "tower of immortality" and a building for cultural activities. These elements recur as a pattern in almost all cities in North Korea. The "tower of immortality" ("Tower of Eternal Life") resembles an obelisk. This tower is sometimes accompanied by a mural, while statues are rarer and are mainly found in Pyongyang or in the centre of medium and large cities.
Furthermore, in satellite view, the towers of immortality, murals and statues leave a longer or shorter shadow on the ground.
Small towns and villages may have only one building for all 'cultural' activities (which acts as an ideological study room and/or theatre), whereas large towns may have different buildings for theatres and study rooms.
The buildings in the city centre are to be described as follows:
- City People’s Commitees (Town halls, 시인민위원회), to be described with the tag amenity=townhall.
- Juche Study Hall (주체연구실) or Palace of culture (문화궁전) which are places for the community, to be describe with the tag amenity=community_centre.
- School, to be describe with the tag amenity=school for each building and for the school grounds
- Tower of immortality, to be describe with the tag historic=memorial.
Another city centre with a mural - recognisable because it has the shape of a wall that leaves a shadow on the ground, with no building in its immediate vicinity - a juche study hall - with its specific shape - the immortality tower - with its shadow on the ground - and the city hall (Maxar satellite image).
Points of interest
North Korea is dotted with many monuments to the glory of the regime and its leaders, such as the immortality tower, murals, statues etc.
Each of these elements is mapped with one point.
- Tower of immortality, to be describe with the tag historic=memorial.
- the murals are described with the two tags artwork_type=mural and tourism=artwork.
- statues are described with the two tags artwork_type=statue and tourism=artwork.
- pagodas are described either with the tag historic=memorial, or with the two tags building=yes and tourism=attraction
- giant propaganda slogans with support require several steps to be mapped:
- Draw a line and a point for each letter. The line represents the attachment system to the earth. Both the line and the dot are described with the two tags artwork_type=sculpture and tourism=artwork.
- Draw a point having each letter as a relation (which is tagged with the following four tags tourism=attraction and man_made=sign and landmark=sign.
- Create the type=site relationship between all the elements drawn in steps 1 and 2. In the "role" field enter the word "label".
Example: description of the sign "HOLLYWOOD" in the United States.
- giant propaganda slogans written directly on the ground, use man_made=geoglyph and if you are able to transcribe Hangeul inscription=* to transcribe the symbols.
The most recurrent areas in North Korea are:
- agricultural area, to be described with the tag landuse=farmland,
- residential area, to be described with tag landuse=residential,
- scrub, to be described with tag natural=scrub,
- water, to be described with tag natural=water,
- natural wood, to be described with tag natural=wood,
- logged forest, to be described with tag landuse=forest
In urban areas or near cities, the following areas are regularly found:
- farmyard, to be described with the tag landuse=farmyard,
- school, to be described with tag amenity=school,
- industrial area, to be described with tag landuse=industrial,
- quarry, to be described with the tag landuse=quarry
Farmyard consisting of long buildings dotted with piles of hay. Messy cemetery in the lower right of the image (see the Cemeteries section for more detail) (Maxar satellite image).
At the end of the korean traditional funeral rite, a mound of earth and grass is erected over the graves (cemetry or mound or burial mound), which allows them to be recognized from satellite images.
- orderly cemeteries, made up of clearly demarcated mounds.
- the disorderly cemeteries created during the period of "the arduous march " (famine of the years 1994 to 1998), more disorderly and without clear delimitation over large areas sometimes hilly, which resemble bomb impacts with satellite images
Electrical networks are generally made up of these different elements:
- major power line, to be described with the tag power=line (supported by pylons power=tower).
- minor power line, to be described with the tag power=minor_line (supported by single poles power=pole).
- power pole, to be described with the tag power=pole (it supports a minor power line power=minor_line).
- power tower, to be described with the tag power=tower (it supports a major power line power=line).
- electrical substation, to be described with the tag power=substation.
Many poles, pylons and power lines are quite difficult to locate. You have to use the long, thin shadows they leave on the ground to find them. The spacing between each pylon or post of a network is regular, this allows you to "guess" where a post or a pylon should be located and to search in this area. Substations are often surrounded by poles or pylons, and are made up of small dark elements close together with short shadows.
There are different types of dams:
- Dam, to be described with the tag waterway=dam; it is the most frequent structure to block a watercourse, and to form a retention lake.
- Threshold or small dam, to be described with the tag waterway=weir; it is a smaller obstacle than waterway=dam that allows water to flow over it.
There are different types of watercourses:
- River, to be described with the tag waterway=river.
- River, to be described with the tag waterway=stream.
- Channel, to be described with the tag waterway=ditch.
If there is any doubt as to whether it is a stream: one tip is to look at how the potential stream behaves until it crosses a road, another tip is to see if it is connected to a larger water system.
- 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 often close to an agricultural area, linked by canals.
For a more exhaustive list of mappable elements in a military zone see Key:military.
Tips and tricks
Notes and references
- It is possible to have been in the field during a language or tourist trip but the area is rather limited to Pyongyang in principle
- Jacob Bogle defined it as follows « 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-김정일주의연구실). 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 ». They are community places, for public gatherings and events etc. This existed in China, the USSR and in socialist countries more generally
- During the famine of the 1990s, there were too many deaths at the same time, forcing North Koreans to find new places to bury their dead. The hills surrounding towns and villages served this function (grave mound); More details on the relationship of Koreans to their dead on this article: NK News - A very North Korean way to die
- Blog → My North Korea
- A study on OSM contributors to North Korea → « Cartographers of North Korea, An analysis of the OpenStreetMap data in North Korea: Who are the contributors? How and Why did they contribute to North Korea? », Wonyoung So, 12 Mai 2021
- 38 North Article Theme → sur l'analyse d'imagerie
- NK News article → On imagery in North Korea
- Photo of the "Towers of Immortality" → Flickr - Immortality Tower by Raymond Cunningham