Land of Darkness

The above is a night-time satellite image.  Near the center you’ll see what looks like a small, D-shaped island of light, surrounded by dark on either side, two small islands to its south, and to its north, a speckling of lights in a sea of grey and black.  But that northern sea isn’t water.  And that D-shaped island isn’t an island at all.  It’s South Korea, and to its north — in almost total darkness save for a small dot where Pyongyang is — is North Korea.

The above map is from 2002.  Former Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to it during a briefing, noting that North Korea’s oppressive government has ramshackled the nation’s industrialization and infrastructure.  Rumsfeld noted that North Korea has a gross domestic product which is a fraction of South Korea’s and has a power grid which is incredibly inadequate, so much so that it fails to provide enough electricity to light up the vast majority of the country at night.  Specifically, Rumsfeld stated, “if you look at a picture from the sky of the Korean Peninsula at night, South Korea is filled with light and energy and vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark.”

More maps showing a similar effect can be found herehere, and, where the above and others are from, here.  For some, the “Dark Ages” are taken literally.


Bonus fact:  Beyond being a technological backwater, North Korea is subject to incredible levels of censorship. Given these factors, a popular uprising is difficult to spur or organize — the notion of successful revolutions is unknown to the typical North Korean citizen.  But South Koreans are certainly trying to help educate them — using creative means.  This week, the South Koreans launched helium balloons over the border, carrying “toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, underwear, basic medicine and information on the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.”

From the Archives: Dark Sark: A small island near England which forsakes cars and night illumination in order to preserve its unbelievable view of the evening sky.

Related: A really cool globe, showing the earth by day, but the cosmos at night.

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