Sunday, August 21, 2005

Google Earth: Place Name Scuff

I was doing some research this morning for something that I am working on and I came across an article (below) about a "tiff" between South Koreans and the Japanese. It was over a place name on Google Earth of all things that sparked a number of denial of service attacks on a few opposing view bulletin boards in the two countries. I know wars have been fought over land and place names before, but I think this may be one of the first times in history that denial of service attacks have been exchanged because of a disagreement over the name of the East Sea, or the Sea of Japan, in a mapping program. Of note, last year Iran tried to exercise an argument that National Geographic should change the name of the sea between Saudi Arabia and Iran from the Arabian Gulf to the Persian Gulf in a recently published atlas. I believed the Iranians even pulled out historical maps to prove their point and had their president on television presenting a case to the UN. I'm not sure if it worked or not. All I know is that I have a map on my wall that has that body of water as the Persian Gulf. Perhaps they did win? [An article on the subject is here.] Getting back on topic, now that digital mapping is making a big splash globally how will programs like Google Earth and others mitigate the risks of mis-naming a place? Will it fall to the data developers, such as NavTeq or TeleAtlas? Or, do we see a social movement for citizens to map their neighborhoods correctly and submit that information to Google Earth? And where do organizations like the U.S. Board of Geographic Names fit into this discussion? Compromise: Let's just call that sea the East Sea of Japan. Or, better yet... The FANTOM Sea. Japanese Internet Users Said to Attack ROK Website Over 'East Sea' Decision SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- Internet users carried out a concerted cyber attack against a South Korean online civic group in response to's decision to use the term East Sea to refer to the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. VANK, or the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea, said that unidentified internet users launched a denial-of-service attack on its Internet bulletin board ( on Thursday making it hard for ordinary users to post messages. The civic group is an organization dedicated to raising international awareness about South Korea and correcting misinformation about the country. The disruptive messages that swamped the Website's bulletin board a short comments arguing that the East Sea should be called the Sea of Japan. The cyber attacks started about the time that Google started to use the East Sea reference on its cyber map service. The denial-of-service attack also spilled over onto VANK's internal electronic bulletin boards on Saturday, forcing the organization to restrict both overseas and domestic connections early Sunday. It said that its English homepage had been hacked about the same time as it implemented connection restrictions. "At the moment we believe it was angry Japanese Internet users that were behind the attack," said Park Ki-tae, the head of the civic group. He said that the group had received prior warning of the attack and that after its system security is upgraded on Monday it should be open for regular operations. Update: This is what my Google Earth search came up with


Anonymous Paul said...

The "East Sea of Japan" won't work because the sea is west (or north)of Japan. In fact any "east" or "west" designators are not useful because the terms east and west are way too relative. Now North Sea and South Sea Islands work because those entities are to the north or south of most countries.
Reason doesn't work in this argument anyway, since it really involves the conflict-ridden history between Korea and Japan.

8/22/2005 08:14:00 AM  
Anonymous GISgal said...

I'm glad to see these countries have nothing more important to worry about. When they do...that's when I'll be concerned.

8/23/2005 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger Igor Siljanoski said...

This is not a laughing matter if it's a matter of existence of your nation, your future and your economic situation. This is the case of Macedonia. I as a Macedonian object to the fact that google earth and online maps refer to the country as FYR Macedonia. The internet is the new fronteer and names do matter. Macedonia's identity, name and future seem to be hindered by Greece who has a problem with our name, nation and our identity. Have them change the name to FTPG or something like that. Who makes decisions at Google and how can I complain?

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