KOREA: Google plans to introduce adult checking system in August

Google's SafeSearch service meant to protect minors from adult-only Internet sites

The Korea Times
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

By Kim Tae-gyu

Google has finally given in to a government request -- the world's leading search engine will check on ages of Korean users, who search for adult-only Internet sites (see the front page of The Korea Times April 25 edition).

A source familiar with the issue said Tuesday that Google aims to introduce a checking system in August to its Korean-language search solution.

"Google Korea seeks to phase in a two-step safeguard to protect minors from obscene sites. First, they will confirm whether users are at least 19 years old before showing query results that contain sex-related keywords," said the source who declined to be named.

"Plus, SafeSearch applications will be available here to protect children. Google seems to have put forth considerable efforts to come up with the two-stage protective measure," he said.

SafeSearch is Google's conventional service, which is designed to filter Internet sites including explicit sexual content and delete them from search results.

"As far as I know, Google will announce the scheme on Wednesday," the anonymous source said.

When contacted, Google Korea spokeswoman Lois Kim said the company will made a press announcement today but refused to make any comment on its content.

Many domestic search portals check whether or not users are legally eligible to search for adult content but Google Korea had previously refused to do so.

"Google wants to catch two birds with a stone. It wants to drum up support for its Korean-language services by improving its corporate image," said Kim Kyung-mo, an analyst at Mirae Asset.

"In addition, the company is complying with the government. It may be a harbinger to indicate that Google is ready to fully compete here after years of struggles," he said.

Google debuted Korean-language services in 2001 but failed to be a contender, marking a sharp contrast to its global presence of carving out about half of the international search market.

Experts raised many reasons for the setbacks and one of the most frequently cited ones is that it failed to become part of the cultural fabric of Korean society as demonstrated by the adult authentication that many Koreans deem very important.