Korea will have to wait to experience the Pokemon world through Pokemon Go just a bit longer. Pokemon Go has really taken off all across the globe, however it has had a hard time breaking into Asia. Some attribute it to Pokemon’s already strong brand foundation, but many attribute it to Niantic‘s implementation of augmented reality technology. In order for the AR technology to work, Niantic needs to use Google maps, which is why Google has been trying to export South Korea’s map data for a few months now. However recently their attempts have hit a roadblock by the Korean government due to national security concerns. Tensions are high as South Korea is in high alert due to North Korea’s continuous threats and hacks.
The main obstacle in the Korean government comes from the Minjoo Party of Korea, formerly the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), it is the social liberal of South Korea. It is the second-biggest People’s Party and has a strong voice in the government. They have urged the government to deny Google permission to store detailed map information at its global data center located outside the country. So in order for Google to gain access they will need to censor sensitive installations. A meeting will take place on August 12th between Google and the Korean government.
“If the government does a special favor (to Google), it will be violating its own laws and principles,” said Rep. Shin Cheol-yeon of the People’s Party on Aug 4.
The Minjoo Party will also ask the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the ministry overseeing mapping polices to deny Google of this access. Google’s parent company Niantic is not able to bring Pokemon Go to Korea without South Korea’s map data. South Korea is one of the few places in the world where mapping services are restricted. Without the map data Niantic won’t be able to offer functions such as 3-D mapping, driving directions, and car navigation features. However the Korean government feels that the map data is not needed thinking that GPS is all that is required and would be a risk to Korea’s national security. In order to release the map data, Google will need permission from the president of Korea as well as the transportation Minister.
Which is why the meeting on August 12th will be crucial in deciding whether Pokemon Go will come to Korea. A compromise seems likely as Google will get the map data as long as they remove sensitive facilities in South Korea. These sensitive facilities include the presidential office, military facilities, and data centers. This censorship is a bit tricky as Google has never censored anything related to global mapping. Making a exception for South Korea would set a precedent for other countries to do the same. We will wait and see what comes out of the August 12th meeting. The future of Pokemon Go in Korea will depend on that meeting.