Internet search giant Google went on a massive charm offensive in Korea earlier this year, with chairman Eric Schmidt saying the country is one of Google's most important markets and even learning the "Gangnam Style" horse dance during his visit to Seoul to promote the Nexus 7 smartphone.
Yet the company has recently quietly deleted the Korean address for the Dokdo islets from its map service, apparently under pressure from Japan, which maintains a flimsy colonial-era claim to Dokdo.
Google has refused to reconsider the change since it informed the Foreign Ministry on Oct. 18.
At the time, the entire staff of Google Korea's PR team were overseas for a meeting and could not be reached for comment. For days only a voice message saying "accessing international roaming service" was heard on their phones. The only place that could be reached was a PR subcontractor.
Google claims it is trying to be "neutral." Yet deleting the Korean address for Dokdo and identifying it by the old nautical name "Liancourt Rocks" is anything but neutral, since the islets are officially and lawfully administered by Korea. It could be seen to legitimize Japanese attempts to portray Dokdo as disputed territory.
In September last year, when the Fair Trade Commission investigated Google over suspected abuse of its market-dominant position, the company systematically obstructed the investigation by erasing files on staff computers and ordering their staff to stay home, according to an audit by the National Assembly.