Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google is challenging the South Korean government over restrictions to Google's mapping services in the country, in a rare public disagreement over policy, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Google contends that South Korea's national security laws, which were designed to protect the country against infiltration from North Korea, are outdated and unfairly inhibit the company's ability to offer the full range of its Google Map services in South Korea.
In most markets, Google is such a dominant competitor that regulators have looked for ways to rein in its influence. The European Union last month issued antitrust charges against Google for allegedly abusing the dominance of its Android mobile-operating system to push phone makers and telecommunications companies to favor Google apps on their devices.
But South Korea is one of only a small handful of countries where Google isn't the No. 1 search engine, alongside China and Russia, where it lags behind domestic competitors Baidu Inc. and Yandex NV, respectively. In South Korea, Naver, owned by Naver Corp., is No. 1 in search and in mapping.
"The main point is national security," said Kim Tong-il, an official at South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, which oversees mapping policy.
Kim said Google's domestic Korean rivals, Naver and Kakao Corp., only use government-supplied maps that have already had sensitive installations blurred or camouflaged.
Google executives contend that the national-security law in South Korea is being used to protect local competitors in the country of about 50 million people.
The government maintains that national security is the law’s sole purpose.
US-based Google has been raising concerns with officials ahead of a closed-door meeting on Wednesday of top South Korean officials to discuss deregulation and innovation, chaired by President Park Geun-hye.