Released earlier this month, the latest iteration of Apple’s operating system for mobile devices, iOS 7, boasts a sleek, vivid interface that is certainly quite a departure from previous iPhone software. Although the majority of Apple’s customers will likely be more than satisfied with both the OS’s stylistic and functional changes, some Korean citizens have taken issue with iOS 7’s Maps application, which refers to the islets located between Japan and Korea – over which there has been much debate – by the Japanese name of Takeshima.

Known in the English-speaking world as the Liancourt Rocks, the small islands are referred to in Korean as “Dokdo,” and “Takeshima” in Japanese, with both countries staking a claim to the tiny cluster of rocks. It’s only natural, then, that some Koreans should take offense when Apple’s built-in Maps application chose the Japanese name over the Korean.

After hearing rumors that Apple’s software was effectively siding with the Japanese on the territorial dispute, we fired up Mr. Sato’s famous iPhone 5S and tried searching for the islands using both their Japanese and Korean names.

First, we tried searching for 竹島 (“Takeshima” as it is written in Japanese). Sure enough, the application took us right to the Liancourt Rocks, labelled with the same kanji characters we’d entered. The islands were also clearly marked as being a part of Shimane Prefecture’s Oki District. Next, we entered 独島 (the characters for “Dokdo” as used in the Korean language) into the search box. This time, however, when the software directed us to the same islands their name was automatically changed to, you guessed it, 竹島 (“Takeshima”).

In order to conduct as fair a test as possible, we fiddled around in our smartphone’s settings and activated Hangul, Korea’s native alphabet, as a method of text input and ran the search again. Once again, though, the application took us to a location clearly marked “Takeshima”. Oh dear.

Even if you don’t make a point of searching for the islets, they are clearly listed as Takeshima on the map, and as a result many Koreans are calling for their fellow countrymen to protest against what they perceive to be blatant political discrimination.

Will Apple change the islands’ name in subsequent software updates? Will this faux pas affect the sales of the company’s newest smartphones? If we’re being completely honest, we’d have to say probably not, but we’ll be sure to bring you more information if it becomes available.

▼ The map clearly displays the islets as Takeshima and belonging to the Oki District of Shimane Prefecture.


▼ A search for 独島 (Dokdo) redirects to 竹島 (Takeshima).


▼ Even after entering the name in Hangul (below right) there is no indication that the islands are a part of South Korea.

[ Read in Japanese ]