Fun With Maps

I came upon something interesting recently.

In South Korea the most popular search engine is called Naver and they have a similar mapping service to that of Google, though it only covers Korea. It’s quite good and I frequently use it to map out my weekend rides or hiking routes.

A little while ago, after coming back home from a nice hike, I wanted to retrace my path using Naver. During my hike I had come across a fairly large military base up in the mountains and I was going to use that as my point of reference for tracing my route. Try as I might, I could not find it on the satellite map. I found another reference point and successfully found my path, but where did that base run off to? They didn’t try to hide it did they? Yep, they sure did. That left me wondering what other kinds of top secret places had been deemed too sensitive to display on their maps. I remembered that there is a nuclear power plant near the city where I live, and a quick check showed that it, too, had been covered up.

The best part of all this illogicality, is that this base and the power plant can easily be seen, and in great detail, on Google Maps (not to mention from a major road and from the sea).

Trying to wrap my head around this absurdness, I came up with a likely scenario as to how it came about. It started with some older military brass in the South Korean army, who aren’t too sure what the internet is and what it’s capable of; only that it’s dangerous, mentioning in passing to some lower ranked dude that maybe we ought to hide these places from the Internet. That misguided fellow then, in order to impress the older fellows, told one of his subordinates to contact Naver. Naver then, not wanting to question anything someone higher up in the social hierarchy told them, did a quick hackjob of photoshopping out these installations.

And boy what a hackjob it was.

Naver Maps first view - Wolsong nuclear power plant clearly visible

Naver Maps view 2 - One magnification higher and suddenly no more Wolsong plant

Google Maps view - Here we can see a clear view of the cooling towers at Wolsong. The seawalls indicate that it is in fact the same place.

Google Maps view of south entrance to Wolsong - Everything looks pretty normal...

Naver Maps view of south entrance to Wolsong - Guy in car: "Hmm, that forest wasn't there yesterday..."

Bonus: Here’s another nuclear plant about 60 kms south of Wolsong called Shin-Kori. It also does a nice vanishing act on Naver Maps.

One magnification and it's here...

...and in another it's gone.

Finally, here's Shin-Kori on Google.

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