Summer  >>  2005

About the Cover Image

The cover story of this issue is about North Korea’s nuclear program, military capabilities and political prisons. The Natural Resources Defense Council explores what remote sensing can teach us on pages 16-21.

A small, central area of the capital city of North Korea, P’yongyang, is featured as the cover image. (A larger portion of the city is visible on page 16 within the article.) P’yongyang is located in western North Korea—only 150 km (93 miles) from the South Korean border and the DMZ. Geographic coordinates for the city are 39 degrees, 1 minute North and 125 degrees, 45 minutes East.

Yanggak-do island in the center of P’yongyang is shown in the cover photo. Features on the island include (from south going north): the P’yongyang Football Stadium, the International Cinema Hall, a golf course (a rarity in North Korea), and—on the northern tip of the island—Yanggak-do Hotel. This hotel features a casino, hostess bar, dance club and sauna—luxuries accessible only to the elite and to foreign visitors; locals are not allowed. This area exists in stark contrast to the famine and suffering endured by many North Koreans.

To the east of Yanggak-do island (appearing to the right of the island in groups of parallel lines) are ‘spinning thermal power plants,’ electric plants built in a textile factory to supply power. The bridge going across the island is Yanggak Highway Bridge, which leads northwest (left and up in the image) to the P’yongyang Rail Station and main rail marshalling yards. The section of town northeast of the rail station along the river includes several important government buildings, including the Ministry of Railroads, Ministry of Transportation and the P’yongyang City Police Department. Further northeast along the river is the P’yongyang Grand Theater.

In other parts of North Korea, nuclear sites, air fields, navy bases, and political penal labor colonies can be studied using commercial satellite imagery—practically the only way to get a glimpse into this secretive country. The cover story provides imagery and analysis first presented by the authors in a press briefing in January 2005 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

The image is a 1-m color IKONOS image, taken on April 17, 2001, courtesy of WIA (Space Imaging Asia).

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