Friday, November 5, 2010

Dokdo missing on iPhone, Galaxy S

While toying with her newly-acquired iPhone, Kim, a 23-year-old Seoul college student, investigated its maps feature, and was shocked to discover that although Dokdo could be located, it wasn't given a name. "Dokdo is our territory where our people reside. Then, how come the map services do not identify its name? Does the iPhone regard Dokdo as the island of ghosts?", she foamed. "I don't know what Apple or KT think about it. When you sell a product in Korea, you have to care about local tastes. They should learn how sensitive Koreans are about the Dokdo issue."

Situated some 90 kilometers east of Korea's Ulleung Island and much further away from any Japanese island of significance, Dokdo is clearly Korean territory, but this hasn't stopped Japan, which officially regards Korea as a rogue province, trying to repeat the mistakes of its colonialist history by claiming it without any justification.

KT, Korea's largest telecoms provider, reacted angrily to Kim’s statement and threatened to sue her and her ancestors. “Chaebols do not have to care about local tastes - our right to operate a ‘you-take-what-you-get-given’ consumer policy is guaranteed by the Constitution, to demand otherwise is anti-corporate and possibly a sign of communist sympathies.” a spokesdroid told us.

Kim emailed Steve Jobs, Apple’s Chairman and CEO-for-life, to complain, but received the message back “Don’t care about Dokdok. Stop bothering us. Sent from my iPhone”.

In fact the maps on Apple's iPhone and Android devices such as the Galaxy S are provided by Google Maps, which means that as Android grows in popularity this misinformation is only going to spread.

When contacted, Google Korea said that the company makes it a rule not to identify any disputed territory and this policy applies to Dokdo. Recently, after several high-profile UFO sightings around the world, Google removed the word “Earth” from their maps, causing panic in several countries, but that was caused by an error the company said. However, they told us that the omission of Dokdo - which is a deep insult to Koreans - was intentional. Curiously, in a further insult, the Korean island of Daemado – which is currently illegally occupied by Japanese forces and incorrectly called ‘Tsushima’, is clearly labeled as ‘Tsushima’ on Google Maps despite Korea's rightful ownership of the territory. Naver however, properly marks the island as ‘Daemado’.

Members of VANK, which harasses foreign organizations and conducts cyber-attacks against them, sent thousands of emails to Google to protest the measure but to little avail. VANK intends to continue mail-bombing Google though - “If we do not continually protest, Google or others will think that we are admitting Dokdo’s sovereignty is in dispute.” said VANK’s official founder. However, in what some cyber-security experts have dubbed a ‘spectacular failure to understand the effectiveness of Google’s anti-spam technology’, he added “We will continue to clog the inbox of Google with emails or letters”.

VANK describes themselves as “a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting a positive image of Korea”, although it always achieves the exact opposite. Some have suggested VANK (which some foreigners call the ‘Various Agents of North Korea’) may be a front for North Korean intelligence services attempting to make other countries less sympathetic towards South Korea when it is invaded by the North in 2012.

Related Links
Dokdo missing on iPhone, Galaxy S – Korea Times