July 15, 2005

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The lights are on but nobody's home

Today's SCMP reports on doubts about South Korea's offer of massive energy aid to the North in return for denuclearising. As part of the article the SCMP graphics team got some figures from the CIA fact book for a couple of charts. But that wasn't enough, so they added in a famous satellite picture showing the Korean peninsula by night (see below the fold for the graphic). The same picture was linked by Christopher Hitchens in Slate a while back.

In May Sean raised serious doubts about that photo:

But even if we assume that the DPRK has managed to effect, through force and the unreliability of its power grid, a blackout of the whole country. the photo should still show at least some lights in Russia and China, right? Northeast Manchuria and Siberia aren't the most population-dense places on Earth...but look at the peninsula right under where it says 40N on the left. That's cut off right at the edge of Dalian, a Chinese city of 3 million people, which is at its tip. The outcropping below it is the Shandong Peninsula, which is also populous. While China may not have become a first-world country yet, I don't think its large northeastern cities are invisible at night.
Is the photo a con?

From the SCMP:


posted by Simon on 07.15.05 at 10:36 AM in the


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The photo as posted in this blog has clearly been altered. For a less close up, but clearer picture of what night looks like in North Korea, check out the image in NASA's Blue Marble site (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/BlueMarble/Images/land_ocean_ice_lights_2048.jpg)

You'll note that Pyongyang is clearly lit up, and there are faint spots of light in a few other places.

posted by: Fophee on 07.15.05 at 11:18 AM [permalink]

The photo on this site was taken directly from the SCMP.

That other photo simply makes this one appear even more suspect.

posted by: Simon on 07.15.05 at 11:26 AM [permalink]

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