Use OSM in App in Korea

Hi Sorry to ask in English here, but would like to get some comments from you.

We are developing a hiking app, mainly based on offline OSM data so that users can still use app in the mountains without network connectivity.

Our legal team have concerns on using OSM in Korea because of a big news that Google map was unable to enter Korea market due to its map contains military areas.

But luckily, I know there is a special version of Korea OSM which has removed military areas and is updated frequently, we are going to use this special version OSM in our App.

Legal team still have concerns even though we provided the non-military solution.
I also learned that Pokemon-Go, Facebook, Strava, Apple, Wahoo, Amazon… they are all using OSM in Korea, are they in the grey areas of Korean law?
I searched , seems there is no lawsuit of someone using OSM and get sued.
The situation is difficult for me to understand as my Korean-English translator plug-in isn’t good enough and would like to hear some comment from you, thank you very much.


Hi, Ivan.
Thank you for joining our community in Korea.
As you’ve found, there shouldn’t be a problem using OSM maps with national security installations missing.
I’m sure @LuxuryCoop, who has been working on that and contributing to it, will be able to comment if there’s anything else he thinks is needed.
If you could elaborate on what your legal team is concerned about and what you’d like to know, we’ll be able to help you answer.
Thank you.


Hi Adreamy,
Yes, the legal team said we need to submit a ‘map censoring’ request to NGII, to get their approval before we can put non-military OSM in App.

But for the translated info I’ve gathered so far, my understanding is: Only if we are using NGII data(roads/rivers/topo) then we need to go through a map censoring process.
I said we are using OSM, no map censoring is required.
But legal team’s opinion again: hard to prove there is no any NGII data in OSM data.
So we have no conclusion so far.
Thank you.


Geospatial data from South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport and the Korea National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency cannot be included in OSM because OSM’s main servers are located in the Netherlands, and the government data cannot be taken out of South Korea.

제16조(기본측량성과의 국외 반출 금지) ① 누구든지 국토교통부장관의 허가 없이 기본측량성과 중 지도등 또는 측량용 사진을 국외로 반출하여서는 아니 된다. 다만, 외국 정부와 기본측량성과를 서로 교환하는 등 대통령령으로 정하는 경우에는 그러하지 아니하다. <개정 2013. 3. 23.>

Article 16 (Prohibition of Overseas Export of Basic Surveying Performance) ① No person shall export maps or surveying photographs from the basic surveying performance without the permission of the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. However, this shall not apply in cases prescribed by presidential decree, such as exchanging basic survey results with foreign governments. <Amended 2013. 3. 23.>

The main editor on, iD has a feature that allows users to add custom satellite imagery, but satellite imagery from the government is blocked from being added, and the Korea OSM community promptly removes any changesets that use OSM data as the source.

공간정보산업진흥원(SpaceN) 관계자와 통화하여 재확인한 바, 기본 및 공공 측량성과에 기초한 Vworld 컨텐츠를 출처로 그 위에서 디지타이징한 데이터는 Vworld 데이터 저작권의 부산물로 간주할 수 있다는 법적인 해석이 있다는 것입니다. 또한, 그렇게 생성된 데이터는 공간데이터 국외반출의 문제에도 저촉된다는 것입니다.

I have confirmed with SpaceN officials that there is a legal interpretation that data digitized on top of Vworld content based on base and public survey results can be considered a by-product of the Vworld data copyright, and that such data also falls under the issue of spatial data export.

Your legal team is overreacting and doing in a wrong way. I don’t see any problem of using vanilla OSM in your app.

The issue of Google map was getting permission to export Korean government made map data to Google as the law. (You are not doing this.) The military area thing was just an issue In the negotiation of the export, the government requested to hide military areas from satellite imagery when aggregating government data and Google’s imagery.

Most OSM contributors in Korea know this issue very well and are trying to prevent using government data in our mapping. If your legal team is suspecting our effort and request ‘map sensoring’ for OSM, it will annoy us.

Thank you LuxuryCoop, adreamy, ChangwooRyu, you guys are amazing.
I love the logic stating that the law prohibits government map data from exporting, thus the map data on foreign servers contains no Korean government map data in nature. Another thing suprises me is about self-discipline on reviewing changsets.

And of course we don’t want to go through any map censoring process, I don’t know how it is like in Korea, but we do have map censoring experience in China which takes a lot of time to modify political things based on reviewer’s ideas back and forth, like disputed borders, islands on South China Sea…etc. The process takes more than half-year, given that our data source is from a famous certified China map company already. It is impossible we can get China OSM passed.

Our direction now is to minimize the risk, we will adopt the non-military version of osm data, also make sure some disputed areas/names are put correctly:

  1. 독도
  2. 동해

Thank you again, wishing prosperity of Korean OSM content.

That shows another sign that your legal team is overreacting.

We are free country. If you use Japanese names for 독도/동해, it will annoy people and lose the market, but there’s no law punishing you or banning your app.

And that “military areas” in Korean map are very different than you imagine. For example it often includes whole industrial areas like factories, shipbuilding docks, ports, some airports, … which are more than half of a city in some cities. It also includes some of not-restricted hiking routes in mountains your app will use. (Don’t ask why they are hidden even when they are not restricted; we don’t know and nobody answers.)

I agree with you, legal team is overreacting.
But that isn’t their own intepretation on local laws, they actually spent 10K USD(yes, we highly respect Korean laws and take it seriously) consulting a local law firm. I can understand the most conservative suggestions the law firm can give are the safest answers.

And thank you for the supplemental info about sensitive/military areas which matches what I found on wiki:
The definition of ‘military’ is unclear, so some golf courses are hidden.

It is also funny to share a mistake I made: ‘Cheong Wa Dae’ is famous and sometimes is on foreign news titles due to protests for different reasons, so in my memory the blue house is a restricted area. I freaked out when I see the blue house on, then relieved when I realized the blue house has been opened to public in y2022.It also proves data is accurate enough.

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That’s how lawyers make money. If you gave lawyers money in any countries on any topic, they will make you afraid of numerous risks even when the lawyers don’t know a bit about those fields. If you spend more money, you will get more conservative answers.

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Disclaimer: since I am not a lawyer, what I have said so far should be taken as mere gibberish rather than legal advice.

I forgot this phrase.

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no worry, I am one of the OSM contributors too and willing to promote OSM to various countries. A company’s decision won’t rely on a random individual on internet, don’t worry. Sorry for causing such awkward atmosphere.

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I don’t think you’ve created an awkward atmosphere.
As far as this issue is concerned, the laws in Korea are a bit contradictory or weird, and that’s why ordinary people are often inconvenienced.
In my opinion, the legal team is doing what legal teams are supposed to do, and they can only be careful not to run afoul of the laws of the country.
However, I don’t think there is a need to think too rigidly, and I think many people do not want something to happen to their company or OSM.
We can’t give legal advice, but we welcome questions about our general opinion.

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