Google Earth images compromise secret installations in S. Korea

Special to World
Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Google Earth, a new map search engine service being offered by Google [ ], offers its global audience access to satellite imagery of South Korea's presidential mansion and sensitive military facilities, including restricted air force bases and naval ports.

A Google Earth image [ZOOM] of Seoul, South Korea
The Seoul government said that the satellite photos have sparked "security concerns" in South Korea, which is technically in a state of war with North Korea because the 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The border between the two nations remains tightly sealed and guarded by nearly 2 million troops on both sides.

Google Earth's satellite mapping service is accessible to anyone who logs onto the Internet and downloads the program. After acquiring Keyhole, a company specializing in aerial photographed maps in October last year, Google has been offering maps of countries worldwide. Google is the leading U.S. Web search service provider, with 21 sales offices worldwide.

"The service could pose a great security threat to the country, which is still technically at war with North Korea," a Foreign Ministry official said. Seoul was in talks with Washington concerning sensitive satellite imagery, he said.

Pictures of South Korea's major government buildings, including the presidential residence, the defense security command and military facilities can be viewed online.

"If the resolution of the picture is greater than six meters [20 feet], security could be an issue," the official said. "The pictures are quite accurate and clear."

The country's National Intelligence Service said it was investigating the situation. "The pictures seem taken more than a year ago," one NIS official said.

Google's satellite photos also show inside isolated North Korea, including its main nuclear research facility at Yongbyon.

Copyright © 2005 East West Services, Inc.

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