North and South Korea at Night

February 22, 2002


Provided by: Hank Brandli
Summary authors & editors: Hank Brandli; Jim Foster

The above nighttime satellite photo of North and South Korea (center), China (left) and Japan (right) shows numerous city lights that typically give some indication of population density. It was taken in October of 2000 from a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite at an altitude of approximately 450 miles (720 km). Of all the weather satellites in orbit, only the DMSP satellites have the needed sensitivity to capture nighttime images in visible light.

On the photo above, the huge city complexes of Seoul, South Korea, Beijing, China and Tokyo, Japan are very obvious. In addition, it's hard not to notice that North Korea is nearly completely dark. Even though North Korea has an estimated 22 million people (about 45% of the population of South Korea), their presence is invisible on this photo. Very difficult political and economic times have dimmed the lights in this part of Asia. The faint lights in the Sea of Japan are fishing vessels, which use bright lights to attract squid (click on the photo for a better view).

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