South Korea rejects Google request to take government mapping data out of country

By Joyce Lee and Se Young Lee

SEOUL South Korea said on Friday it has rejected Google's latest request for permission to take government mapping data for use in servers outside the country, citing security issues with North Korea.

Google, an Alphabet Inc company, has said it needs to use the data on servers worldwide to enable services that would give walking and driving directions in South Korea.

But South Korea, whose 1950-53 war with North Korea ended without a peace treaty, argues that if it allowed such data to leave the country, the locations of military facilities and other sensitive sites could be revealed.

The government could grant permission if Google removes images of sensitive sites on its satellite imaging services, an official at the body in charge of mapping data has previously said.

But Google has rejected that condition, saying the information is widely available through satellite images that can be purchased freely.

The land ministry said it would reconsider if Google changes its position. A Seoul-based spokeswoman for Google did not have immediate comment on Friday's decision.

Separately, Google is under scrutiny in South Korea, with the antitrust regulator examining whether the U.S. firm's agreements with handset manufacturers on the Android mobile operating system limits market competition.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Se Young Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)