Korean Tech Companies Aim to Thwart Google Maps' Expansion into South Korea

The battle for Korean map data heats up as Korean companies Naver and Kakao dramatically increase the free limits for access to their mapping APIs. The move seems directly related to Google's recent request to the Korean government for map data. The Korean government has specifically dedicated significant resources to the spatial information industry. Through the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport; it dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the spatial information projects. Accordingly, don't expect the government to take Google's request lightly.   
 
Google made its request to the government in June of this year. On October 11th, Naver increased its map API limit to 200,000, compared to the previous limit of 5,000. Later, on October 26th, Kakao increased its free map API limit to 300,000 (previously 75,000) for corporations and 200,000 (previously 50,000) for individuals. Contrast these new limits to Google's free limit of 25,000. After users hit 25,000 views, Google charges 50 cents per 1,000 views.
 
In addition to increased limits, both Naver and Kakao have enhanced the features available through their respective map services. For instance, Kakao now includes map rotation and 3D sky views. Naver, on the other hand, added panoramic view to its map service. Naver and Kakao have the benefit of significant in-country resources. Both Naver and Kakao started with other products and services (e.g. social networks, ecommerce, etc.) that have become very popular within Korea. The companies have built map ecosystems by tracking users and their movement. In contrast, to build its map ecosystem, Google requested map data at a scale of 1:5,000 from the Korean government. 
 
The Korean government is expected to announce its response to Google's request on November 23rd. Many expect the struggle between the international juggernaut (Google) and the Korean-born tech companies (Naver, Kakao, etc.) to continue for as long as Google attempts to stake its place within the Korea mapping space. To provide color on how controversial the issue is within Korea, consider a recent comment from the Korea Association of Spatial Information: "Map data are a container of all technologies needed for the fourth industrial revolution. As all big data are included in maps, competition will begin on a full scale soon." 
Eric Carter Eric the founder of Dartsand and Corporate Counsel for a specialty technology distributor. He is a frequent contributor to technology media outlets and also serves as primary legal counsel for multiple startups in the Real Estate, Virtual Assistant, and Software Development Industries. Follow me on Google+
 

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