Google has been dealt a blow in its attempt to expand its mapping services in South Korea. The government there says North Korea could use more detailed mapping data to threaten the South's security.
South Korea says it won't let Google use local mapping data over national security concerns.
The country's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it would continue to uphold a ban on exporting local mapping data to foreign countries that did not operate domestic data servers. Friday's long-awaited decision came after Google rejected South Korea's request that it remove or blur sensitive information about military and other facilities in the country in exchange for use of the data.
"We're disappointed by this decision. We've always taken security concerns very seriously and will continue to provide useful map services in compliance with Korea's current map data export regulation," Google spokesman Taj Meadows said.
Google Maps is available in South Korea, but its data is stored on servers at its headquarters in California and at 14 data centers outside the country. The restrictions mean it does not offer driving or walking directions - something Google had hoped to change.
The company had argued that visitors to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018 would be inconvenienced by the lack of mapping. But the ministry said concerns about North Korea overrode growing support for Google within the government and media.
The Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty, meaning North and South Korea are technically still at war. Several North Korean attempts to dig invasion tunnels under the heavily fortified dividing line between the two states have been discovered.
In recent years, communist North Korea, one of the world's poorest and most isolated states, has conducted several nuclear bomb tests, including two this year. It frequently makes bellicose statements about the South.
Google had argued that South Korea's restrictions meant it could offer a more complete set of services related to the North than for South Korea, one of the most wired countries and home to high-tech giants like Samsung and LG.
sgb/hg (AP, dpa, AFP)