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Lost Seoul : South Korea Blocks Google From Expanding Local maps
Seoul-South Korea denied a request by Apphabet Inc.’s Google to export digital-map data grom the country efffectively blocking the U.S. technology giant from expanding its limited local-map services there.
For eight years, Google has sought approval to stroe South Korean map data on its foreign servers, a step it says is necessary to provide a full rage of mapping services, including 3-D maps and tarffic updates. South Korea is a global outlier in having only basic Google map service even after they were officially launched there in 2008.
Seoul has in the past refused the requests because, it says, the export of map data could compromise the country’s security against Norht Korea by exposing information about its military and other facilities.
On Friday, South Korea’s Ministry of Land, infrastructure and Transport, which oversees the country’s map-related policies, reiterated those concerns, saying the government denied Google’s request to export data because it could aggravate security issues with North Korea. The decision was passed unanimously by eight governent entities, including the country’s foreign-affairs ministry, trade ministry and national intelligence division.
The ministry also said Google hadn’t accepted the governemnt’s suggestion of addressing the security concerns by making changes to satellite images avaiable through its mapping service. the government said it is open to reconsidering the Mountain View, Calif., company’ sreuqest if it changes its position.
We are disappointed by this decision, said Taj Meadows, a spokesman at Google. We have always taken security concerns very seriously, he said.
South Korea isn’t a big market for Google but is an important one, with a user rate of 98% for internet-connected smartphones – one of the highest in the world, accoridng to research firm Kantar TNS.
The company has said in the past that to provide full mapping services, it needs government-supplied map data to be stored outside South Korea, Earlier this year, Google said the South Korean governemnt’s restricitions make its driving directions for North Korea more complete than in the South, highlighting its limitatations in a country with some of the world’s highest internet use.
Government officiails have said Google would win an export license if it used maps that have lurred out sensitive areas, even when accessed from overseas. They contend that google would be leacing the country’s power plants, military installations and goverment facilities exposed to potential danger if the company doesn’t comply with South Korean laws. Other local-map providers comply with the government’s rules.
But the decision goes much beyond security issues, according to industry experts. For Google, exporting South Korea’s map data isn’t just about bringing better map services. They are looking to the next generation of technology such as self-driving cars and location-based advertising, which all depend on having proper map data, said Son YOung-taek, head of the Korean Assocition of Spatial Information, Surveying & Mapping.
South Korea’s decision comes as the countr scrambles to preserve its security ties to Washington as U.S. President-elect DOnald trump makes his transition the the White House. In March, Mr.Trump demanded that South Korea, where 28,500 U.S. troops are based, pay more for U.S. defense arrangements and even develop its own nuclear weapos to confront regional threats on its own.
Google has been facing tough competition in South Korea’s market for mobile map apps- led by domesetic internet rival Naver Gorp., which has over 70% of the market, accroding to reaserch firm Nielsen KoreanClick,
Lee sung-bin, an analys at Kyobo Securities, said the governemnt’s deicion wouldn’t result in a large number of Google Map users switching to domestic alternatives, which people already use.
South Koreans don’t really complain about Google Maps sevices in the country, Mr.Lee said