KOREA: Google asked to identify Korea correctly

The National Geographic Information Institute requests Google Earth to change Japanese terms on the Korean map

Korea Times
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

By Cho Jin-seo

The National Geographic Information Institute said Wednesday that it will hand over an English-language map of Korea to Google this month with a request that the U.S. Internet company stop using Japanese terms on the map of Korea.

The map agency said that several notable geographical names in South and North Korea are erroneously marked on Google Earth, a popular satellite map-viewing program, as well as other international Web sites, in Japanese.

For example, Paektu Mountain (Baekdusan) on the North Korea-Chinese border is shown as "Hakuto," the Japanese pronunciation of the word. Also, Dokdo island in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) is marked as "Doko do" on Google Earth while another Web site tagged Taebaek mountain range (Taebaeksanmaek) as "Taihaku-sammyaku."

"Since we made an official request to Google last year, many names have been corrected. However, some places still bear Japanese names," Cho Hung-mook, an official of the institute's National Land Information Survey division, said on the phone. "So this time, we are preparing a map and will hand it to Google and many other foreign companies, institutes and agencies."

The national map agency also said the new world map will be centered on the Korean Peninsular, unlike traditional Western-oriented maps that are centered on the Atlantic Ocean.

Google had been criticized by many Koreans for using the term "Sea of Japan" for East Sea, the water that lies between the two countries. Upon receiving protests from people of the two countries, the company recently put both names on Google Earth, "East Sea" near the Korean coast and "Sea of Japan" on the opposite side.

The Korean map agency said that it had no reply from Google as to whether it will accept its request to make corrections.

Along with the map of the world, a wall-sized English-language map of South Korea will be completed this year, the agency said. The map of Korea is on a scale of 1 to 600,000, and is able to display all the major roads and towns in the nation. It is the first time the institute has made such a detailed map using the government's new transcription system.

So far, there are two commonly used romanization systems for Korean characters. Most U.S. agencies and The Korea Times use the McCune-Reischauer system, while the government has been pushing for the Revised Romanization System since 2000.