South Korea has again delayed its final decision on granting approval for sharing mapping data with Google, which would be used in its global database for Google Maps.

South Korea
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Success of Google Maps

These days, you rarely see tourists, huddled on a street corner, poring over a street map, trying to work out the best way to their destination anymore. The map, usually a fold out, would have different fingers pointing at different places, as the person holding the map is often rotating it, trying to get their bearings.

The reason we don’t see this anymore is Google Maps. Instead people are just looking at their smartphones, and letting Google guide them to where they want to go. It works well and has probably decreased tardiness on many occasions.

Difficulties in South Korea

However, it is not quite so straightforward in South Korea. Despite requesting mapping details for South Korea back in May of this year, the country has still to provide the information. Initially the government asked for a three-month period to discuss the request for information.

Today, August 24th, they have responded, but instead of supplying the information they have instead asked for another three months before making a decision.

Google does have a basic map service for the Asian country, but stated that it needs the additional mapping information to provide the full service and capabilities of the application.

Officially at war

South Korea’s reluctance to provide the data comes from the obvious security concerns that the information raises. Although fighting ended back in 1953, with the creation of the Korea Demilitarized Zone, South Korea is still technically at war with their boisterous neighbor, North Korea. No peace treaty was ever signed between the two nations, and while tensions ebb and flow, Kin Jong-Un the young leader has done nothing to quell the problems.

Officials from the South Korean government have been quoted as saying that they wanted more time to fully assess the situation, and made clear that they were looking to make a ‘cautious decision’, which does not bode well for the tech giant’s chances of getting the data they want.

Negotiated peace?

Google have sent various delegations to Seoul in an attempt to convince the necessary people in the country. So far they seem to have been unable to allay fears that the information could get into the wrong hands, or be used for more nefarious means than just finding the best way to get around a town center. South Korea have serious concerns about the information being taken out of the country.

Google’s arguments

It is thought that talks will continue between the two parties over the following weeks and months as an agreement is sought. Google has appointed Kwon Beom-jun to lead the negotiations.

Kwon, a product manager for Google Maps, said during a debate at the Korea National Assembly earlier this month that “during the mobile age, services that combine location data and map services are standing at the center of innovation. If the government prevents map data from being taken overseas, [South Korea] could fall behind in this trend.”

He added, the potential benefits, stating “if the government allows map data to be taken overseas, there will be more competition in the domestic market, promoting users’ convenience, and developers will be able to use the global map platform service to do business in the global market.”