Apple Maps reference of Korean Dokdo islets 'unacceptable'

South Korea has protested against Apple's much-criticized map service for indicating both Korean and Japanese names for Dokdo islets, which ownership has caused tensions between both countries.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

South Korea has voiced its displeasure over Apple's map service for the iPhone indicating both the Korean and Japanese names in reference to the Dokdo islets, which ownership has led to tensions between both Asian countries.

Citing a foreign ministry official, a report by Yonhap News on Wednesday said Apple's Korean unit notified the local government its new English map service under the iOS6 mobile operating software simultaneously uses Korean, Japanese and Franco-English names--"the Liancourt Rocks"--to describe Dokdo, which is also claimed by Japan.

The Korean-language version of the map service retains the Korean name, Dokdo, while the Japanese-language service uses the Japanese name, the government official said. In previous versions of the English map service, the Korean name had been used to describe the islets, which lie closer to South Korea in the body of water between the Korean peninsula and Japan. 

The Korean official said Dokdo is an integral part of South Korea's territory, so the new reference is "unacceptable" and 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," the official said.

While Apple's Korean unit could not be reached for comment, the Japanese government told the news site it recently changed to an aggressive mode from a defensive mode regarding the naming issue. 

Tensions have been high between Seoul and Tokyo over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea, after the South Korean president Lee Myung-bak visited the islets and cited Tokyo's unrepentant attitude over its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula as a key reason for his trip. His comments angered the Japanese, according to a separate report by The New York Times.

Apple Maps, available on iPhone 5 and iOS6, was involved in another territorial dispute between China and Japan, over a group of uninhabited islands known as the Diaoyu Islands. The map had referenced the islands to both countries, depending on the keyword used.

It also came under fire in Taiwan last month as satellite images of sensitive military installations on Apple maps surfaced, prompting the government to call for the Cupertino-based company to blur the images. 

Consumers also have complained about Apple's maps inaccurate indication of places since its launch. The widespread criticisms prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue an apology, even recommending other map services as alternatives including those from its rivals Microsoft and Google. 

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