Apple Maps Sees Its First International Territorial Dispute As Korea Protests Island Naming

apple-maps-dokdoFrom 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.

Related Topics: Apple: Maps | Channel: Local


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Rajesh Magar

    Interesting topic, but I have one question in my mind from long time. Who did this Apple, Google or any company get location details, I mean through the satellite they scanning all places and collect information or they make deal with government and get details about theses all physical locations.

  • FlavioTrillo

    Doesn’t the screenshot rather show the Korean name – in Korean – than the Japanese version? My Korean is very rusty, but the symbols here suggest, the label reads “Dokdo” ->

  • William Donelson

    Welcome to the world of mapping. Ugh.

  • Matt McGee

    I suspect you’re correct, Flavio – thanks. I’ll update the text.

  • Marawan

    No offence, but I’m sure 99% of people living outside of Korea will not care about the name.

  • FlavioTrillo

    Thanks! I was wondering what the protest was all about – but if they don’t like how the islands are labelled for japanese users, it all makes sense :)

  • Sony Jim

    I guess if Google or Apple Corporations say something – then it can’t be refuted right? I mean those companies can rewrite history, alter maps and boundaries and inform us of absolute truths about everything…
    I recently saw some people complaining on the Whirlpool forum (a Telco forum) and on consumer rights sites like Complaints Board Australia ( ) about Apple maps and how broken the release was. But what I found amazing was how far the tone has gone regarding consumer sentiment about dominant brands like Apple, Google and Microsoft. People want more choice and companies to respect their wishes more.

    I wish we had a true open source alternative and I wished that Search wasn’t so controlled and dominated, that key Apps like Maps where not used to track people and that privacy was still a right afforded to all people.

    Meanwhile – this little mess up may be trivial to us westerners but for people living in SEA and East Asia who are currently in dispute over (potentially oil rich) islands the the American based Apple has stirred the pot just a little and gotten some free publicity to boot!

  • Rajesh Magar

    Hi all there,

    Can anyone please answer the question which I mentioned here?

  • Rajesh Magar

    Hi Matt

    Can you please explain little bit about the question I have.

  • Matt McGee

    There are mapping and satellite imagery providers all over the world. I don’t know who exactly would provide for that area, but you might be able to research it yourself — Apple Maps has a lengthy “credits” page in its Maps system, as I recall.

  • Rajesh Magar

    Alright Thanks.

  • Glenn Parizot

    OK, I’m really late to the party here, but I can read Hangul. Yes, it says “Dokdo” in Korean.

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