South Korea to redraw its maps with open source

Government hopes to make it easier for people to find their way around with new digital mapping system.

South Korea will try to tackle one of its lingering problems--a chaotic street and address system--through a new open-source project.

The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has formed a team to normalize the country's street addresses, and then create a database around the information. In the end, the country hopes to have an address and digital mapping system that conforms to international standards.

The project, which will continue through 2009, is expected to cost $3.7 million in 2006 and $4.5 million in 2007.

The South Korean address system can be, to residents and visitors, confusing. Addresses often combine street numbers and land lot numbers. Seoul and other metropolitan areas have also grown rapidly in recent decades. Rather than using addresses, most people rely on maps generated by computers, in-car navigation systems and cell phone calls to people at the intended destination to figure out where to go. The confusion contributes to the omnipresent gridlock in Seoul.

Another confusing wrinkle in the current system is that the street name and street number often are not part of the address. Instead, the neighborhood, building and/or block are listed. For instance, the current address for KEPCO, the Korea Electric Power Corporation, is 167 Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea. In the future, it will be 11 Youngdong Street, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea. ZDNet Korea is now at Sungdo Venture Tower 4F, 165-2 Samsung-dong, Kangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea. In the future, the address will be 22 Hanjeon buk Street, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea.

The new system will also allow fire stations and police officers to react more rapidly to emergencies.

Currently, the team is assessing the scope of the project and database standardization. From 2007 through 2009, it will update data and add new regions and streets.

The project will be based on open-source software, which the government has long supported. Earlier, South Korea built a National Education Information System on Linux servers. The Ministry of Information and Communication is in the midst of a program to shift a substantial number of PCs and servers at universities and government agencies to Linux.

"We chose Linux because of lower cost in setup and maintenance, free licensing fees and its ability to respond to security breaches rapidly," said Doo-soo Kim, who is heading up the project.

If the re-mapping project is successful, it could lead to another export industry for the country. Korea has a history of turning its own problems into exports. After the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the government invested billions into building out a national broadband network. Since then, Korean companies have begun to export things like online games and broadband consulting services.

Hyangseon Lee of ZDNet Korea reported from Korea.

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