The Korean name of the Dokdo islets has almost disappeared from major online maps, with Apple deciding to show both the Korean and Japanese names in its new English-language mapping service for the iPhone.
When it was unveiled last month, the iPhone mapping service showed only the Korean name, but protests from Japan, which maintains a flimsy colonial claim to the islets, persuaded Apple to change its mind.
Under similar pressure from Japan, Google recently deleted the Korean address of the islets on its map service entirely.
Microsoft's English-language map service shows the islets by their old nautical name "Liancourt Rocks," which is like calling Taiwan "Formosa," while Yahoo's English-language map service shows no name at all.
"Heightened diplomatic tensions between Seoul and Tokyo are spreading to widely used commercial maps available on the Internet," said one diplomatic source here. "We may see a growing sense of Dokdo as disputed territory, which is what Japan wants."
A government official here told reporters on Wednesday, "Apple notified us through its Korean office that it has decided to show the islets as 'Dokdo' when accessing the map service from Korea and as 'Takeshima' when accessing it from Japan, while accessing the service from a third country would show the islets in the order 'Liancourt Rocks, Dokdo and Takeshima.'"
The changes will be applied in Apple's mapping service available on its new iOS6 operating system to be unveiled soon.
Until July of this year, Apple also named the islets "Takeshima" and "Liancourt Rocks." It only switched the name to Dokdo in September following protests from the Korean government but now changed its name again. "It seems Apple reflected Japan's position because the market there is much bigger than Korea's," the official said.
The policy of Apple and Google is to list all of the names given to a disputed region unless an agreement has been reached over the issue between the countries involved. But Dokdo is not a disputed region since it is lawfully administered by Korea, and critics say the Korean government has simply been outmaneuvered by Japan's campaign to turn it into one.
Seoul plans to call on Apple to change the designation, but that is unlikely to happen.
Tokyo is also aggressively lobbying against Seoul's efforts to have the body of water separating them referred to as the "East Sea." Hungary and Austria decided to show the body of water as both East Sea and Sea of Japan on their official maps just before the UN Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names in August this year. But they omitted the decision in country reports they submitted to the UN body after protests from Tokyo.
Diplomatic sources said that Hungarian government officials also decided to repeal a decision made in 2010 to show the body of water as "Sea of Japan" along with "East Sea" in brackets. "Hungarian diplomats were apparently worried about damaging economic ties with Japan," a diplomatic source said.
Google uses "Sea of Japan" with "East Sea" in brackets on its map, while Apple gives no name. Microsoft's English-language map names it "Sea of Japan/East Sea."
Meanwhile, Yahoo's English-language map is all over the place, referring to Korea's Ulleung Island by the French nautical name "Dagelet Island" although no other country lodges a claim to it.