Before January 2013, if you were to do a Google search for Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, you would likely be taken to a map of a large gray area with nothing in it. Until earlier this year, North Korea was one of the few areas in the world not detailed on Google Maps. However, near the service’s inception, Google began working with “a group of citizen cartographers” in South Korea; in combination with its map maker software and satellite imagery technology, they were able to complete a detailed map of North Korea in 2013.
However, a feature of Google Maps that enables its users to review listings has become the tool of amateur comedians on the web. Try searching for “Yodok Gulag” on Google Maps, and you will find morbid joke reviews of concentration camps like they are for TripAdvisor.
Hundreds of reviewers are calling attention to the travesties in North Korea and getting people to pay attention to the injustices occurring.
My personal favorite was one commenter, who wrote, "The best map that no one in North Korea will be able to see." This joke highlights the fact that many people in North Korea have restricted Internet access and others cannot afford it due to an impoverished enervate economy. However, not all users were as amused by the reviews as others:
It is debatable whether or not the comments are helpful, funny, or out of line. Personally, it is my belief that humor can often shed light on issues by forcing people to educate themselves to understand the jokes. While some of the reviews clearly cross a boundary, I do not think we should condemn anyone or question their right to a freedom of speech.
Keep in mind, many people respond to humorous arguments more than they do to serious arguments, and the popularity of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are testaments to that. Perhaps the best way to think of it is as Johnny Carson once put it "comedy is relative."