Google finally announced the release of Google Maps in South Korea today.
Google Maps has been available in many parts of the world, but was not available in Korea because of export restrictions on mapping data. The Korean government had also been discouraging Google from offering maps of Korea, citing national security issues. South Korea is still technically at war with North Korea. (I remember a government official once telling me, ‘What happens when anyone will be able to see what the Intelligence Agency looks like?’) Google Maps in Korea still does not include Street View, but it says it going to introduce that soon.
It will be interesting to see how Google’s Street View compares with similar services currently under development. Daum, a top-3 Internet portal, is preparing high-resolution mapping services at 50 cm/pixel. The portal claims that it can provide images up to 25 cm/pixel but the government regulations on aerial photography are currently limited to 50. Not to be outdone, Naver, the largest Internet portal, is also preparing its own mapping service.
Google entered the Korean market very late and is still not one of the top 3 search services in Korea, but its traffic has been increasing.