From the it-had-to-happen-sooner-or-later department: Apple is in the midst of its first international territorial dispute over its new Apple Maps product.
As the Korea Times reports (and also picked up by ZDNet), the South Korean government is upset because Apple is displaying a collection of small islands in between it and Japan with different names — including the non-Korean name.
The islands are known in Korea as Dokdo, and Korean Apple Maps users see the correct name.
But elsewhere, the islands appear on Apple Maps using the Japanese name, as shown on the screenshot at right that I just made this afternoon. Update: As pointed out in the comments below, the small labeling text on Apple Maps appears to be Korean, not Japanese. Ergo, it appears Apple Maps uses the Korean name on a worldwide basis, but not in Japan, which is the subject of the Korean government’s protest.
Both countries claim the islands as their own, but Korea wants Apple to display the Dokdo name in its Maps. The Times quotes a Korean foreign ministry official who explains the protest sent to Apple:
“We protested to Apple’s Korean unit that, because Dokdo is clearly an integral part of our territory, the new reference is unacceptable and it should be marked as the Korean name of Dokdo wherever it is searched for. Although Apple is a private organization, this is an issue that our government cannot concede on. So, we will continue reiterating our stance and requesting Apple to accept our demand.”
Apple representatives in Korea did not comment on the Times’ story.
Google Maps has faced numerous international protests due to similar territorial issues (see our related stories below this article), and Korea also recently protested to Google officials that it uses the English name for Dokdo, which is Liancourt Rocks. Indeed, you can still see Google Maps using that name in its online maps. (The islands are also findable on Apple Maps by searching for the English name.)
Apple almost found itself involved in a similar territorial dispute between Japan and China over island names but, as ZDNet reported in September, Apple Maps avoided that problem by showing different names to searchers in each country. That same approach isn’t acceptable to the Korean government.