Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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February 26, 2014
Eerie Darkness Shrouds North Korea

Coastlines often are apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea’s eastern shoreline in this astronaut image. But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect.

A gloomy icon of its depressed population, North Korea is almost completely blacked out at night compared with the bright city lights in neighboring South Korea and China. In this astronaut photo taken from the International Space Station, the darkened country strangely appears as if it is a patch of water connecting the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.

Unlike daylight images, city lights at night dramatically illustrate the relative economic importance of cities, as gauged by relative size. In this north-looking view, it is immediately obvious that greater Seoul is a major city and that the port of Gunsan is minor by comparison. There are 25.6 million people in the Seoul metropolitan area—more than half of South Korea’s citizens—while Gunsan’s population is 280,000.

North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang, appears like a small dim island, despite its population of 3.26 million (as of 2008). The light emission from Pyongyang is equivalent to South Korea’s smaller towns.

Image courtesy of NASA.

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