Thursday, June 28, 2007

Korean Maps

The Mokpo Maps post dealt with the local Mokpo area and its culmination of all geographical knowledge, the tourist map. But there's another level beyond the cartoon amusement park guide to Mokpo and that level is on the Internet.

English Korean Maps

The main players in North America tend to ignore South Korea and treat it like a separate entity. Consider the difference between and and the incompatibilities between the two sites that share the same name. I can't find a solid answer why there is a split, just some unanswered questions and tiny hints in blogs and newsgroups. SundoSoft, Congnamul and Cybermap are the main map data companies in South Korea (for the curious: gets its data from Congnamul while SundoSoft's data is used by and there appears to be some problem integrating their data into the North American systems.

While we wait for global map unification (or the Korean map upgrade), computer geeks are working on their own solutions. And by solutions I mean experiments that are part of a larger geekness, the map mashup; a quick search gives us these two examples:

  1. Naver Map Overlay Google Earth via network link
  2. Congnamul map overlay on Google earth
And there's stuff like what this guy is doing that results in a Naver's road map mashed-up with a Google satellite view. Using it on a certain high school we get this map and it's closer to what we want, but there's one problem: there's no English.

Korean Korean Maps

Now, if you're willing to give up the crutch of English and use what the Koreans use, then there's an better alternative to the experimental sites. The Korean front runners are Naver and Congnamul but there's also Cyworld, Maptopia (that keeps on trying to install a plug-in every time I visit it) and the slightly biased map system at Tour2Korea. Both Naver and Congnamul provide most of the same functionality as Google but they're made by Koreans, for Koreans which means you'll have to learn Korean or fumble some use out of them.

Take the Naver map system; at first click, it'll detect your Internet provider and place you in a close enough location. The only search box should be in the top left and you can feed it one of two things:
  1. Korean Trade Name
  2. Korean Street Address
Both must be in Hangul. So, for example, when trying to find the location of our favorite high school those two options translate into:
  1. 전남제일고등학교
  2. 전라남도 목포시 용당동 937-1 번지
It's the same concept over at Congnamul and comparing the two is like comparing Google and Mapquest. Naver is fairly vanilla compared to Congnamul that seems to have a lot more features, but is Seoul Tourist Centric (including a online bus guide in various languages too). Those features are cool but, when living in Mokpo, useless. There's one feature that tips the hat in Congnamul's favour and that's the ability to share maps.

Sharing Korean Maps

Let's say I found this really great restaurant in Seoul, but it's hidden off of the side streets and all you have is a smudged cross on a napkin. If you're not careful you'll end up wandering around until you find the courage and mime gestures to ask where is this place. And if you're lucky you'll only have to mime once.

How would that scenario work with the map systems? From the restaurant's website you know the street address is:
서올시 종로구 창신동 148-1
So you plug that into both and find out that Naver refuses to budge. But Congnamul saves the day suggest a different spelling:
서울 종로구 창신동 148-1
With the correction, both sites show me the proper location and both render my napkin somewhat obsolete with their quick print options. But what about mailing this map to our friends? That involves something different; something called the the link to map function.

The Link To Map function

Link to Map translates what ever you are viewing on your screen into a url that can be easily shared amongst friends. And sadly enough Naver does not support this function and I do not understand why. This features is a staple of any North American web map. Sharing a map via url is important since it:
  1. Stops the abuse of large image attachment in e-mails.
  2. Allows maps to be shared over non e-mail Internet communication, like instant messaging forum postings, etc.
  3. Provides a more robust map than those little maps on the back of the business cards.
Congnamul understands this and provides that functionality via the URL링크 (URL Link) button in the bottom toolbar, unfortunately it's not that intuitive. Here are the steps:
  1. You enter your address and click the 검색 (Search) button.
  2. Congnamul finds your spot and marks it with a big red arrow.
  3. Click on the URL링크 (URL Link) button.
  4. Congnamul launches a pop-up saying something to the effect of "Please click anywhere on the map."
  5. Dismiss the pop-up and move the click somewhere near your arrow. Note: If you're to close to the arrow the mouse cursor will be an arrow and won't register the location; start moving the cursor away until it turns into the hand, and then click.
  6. Congnamul launches a pop-up displaying the url link.
Now our restaurant address becomes clickable.

Nerd Stuff

All map systems create their maps dynamically via various a arguments into a function. Congnamul's URL링크 function from above is quite straight forward and has two arguments:
and if you really want to play around here's an url from Congnamul's mailing a map function; it has more parameters to tweak and is only presented for the super keen.

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