In recent days, the world has been captivated by reports of a massive rail accident coming out of North Korea. Sources reported early that there were
mass casualties in the thousands, but the North Korean government closed a veil of secrecy over the situation.
With international phone calls blocked and all but a few rescue workers barred from approaching the scene, a lone photo emerged reportedly taken via
satellite of the area 18 hours after the explosion.
South Korea's Donga news site published the photo first, comparing it side-by-side with a satellite image taken a year earlier.
At first glance, the photos show incredible devastation and a massive plume of black smoke billowing to the sky. It seems certain that no one in the
immediate vicinity could have survived the destruction. Major media such as the BBC, CNN, and many others broadcast the photo on television and
websites to help illustrate the tragic event and shed some light on the scope of the devastation.
The only problem is that the supposed satellite photo was not taken 18 hours after the incident, nor was it even taken of North Korea.
Our first clue comes when one considers the appearance of the smoke plume and the 18-hour time frame. Examine a satellite image of the New York City
area in the hours after the World Trade Center collapse:
NYC Satellite Image 9-11-01
Note how just hours afterwards, the smoke plume from the collapse and fires has drifted miles to the east as upper-level winds carry it aloft. In
looking at the supposed North Korean satellite photo, no significant plume drift has occurred, as would be expected 18 hours after the fact.
Our second clue comes when you compare the two photos closely. While the smoke plume obscures much of the small photo, the area not obscured doesn't
quite match the photo taken of the area in 2003. The streets are not quite the same layout and the architecture is noticeably different.
What, then, is the supposed satellite picture? Where did it come from?
The website GlobalSecurity.org
provides the answer.
We discover first the the grainy black & white satellite image was not taken this week; rather, it was taken on April 9th, 2003.
Second, the photo is not of North Korea. It is a satellite image of Iraq.
GlobalSecurity Original Image
In a blatant example of journalistic disintegrity, the South Korean news site cropped GlobalSecurity.org's original satellite image down to the photo
now being circulated around the world and passed it off as an authentic image of the North Korea disaster.
The Donga news site is still reporting the photo as an authentic satellite image as of midnight EST 4/24/04.
[Edited on 23-4-2004 by Banshee]