Saturday, February 18, 2017

Kakao Map gets English interface

KakaoMap (formerly the Daum Maps app) got updated recently from version 1.0.8 to 1.0.9, but don't let that tiny decimal fool you. This update included a hugely important feature: an English interface. Like with many other Kakao apps, you can comfortably use it with English menus, dialog boxes, directions, etc. This will doubtless be very useful for Olympics tourists coming to Korea next year.

Of course, most locations names are still handled in Hangul, but I found that major locations, like searching "Gwanghwamun" or "Gimpo Airport"or "Seoul Station" in English, returned the correct location results. So searching in English sort of works.

Let me show you a few of the English interface updates by comparing screenshots from version 1.0.8 (on the left) and version 1.0.9 (on the right).

Kakao Map: version 1.0.8 versus 1.0.9

Overall map

Map imagery itself is still only in Korean, but the search menu and "Recommendations" tab are in English.

 Local Area Info & Recommendations tab

When you drag-up while viewing a map area, you get the Recommendations and Info tab. This includes the local weather and air quality, restaurant recommendations with ratings, popular local searches, nearby popular attractions, upcoming festivals and special events, and movies showing in the area.

Side-bar Menu

The sidebar menu options and their corresponding screens have all been made English friendly. Interesting though that the English maps interface provides links to services like KakaoTaxi and KakaoNavi, which are still Korean-only. Although it's easy enough to use in Korean, Kakao would be smart to release an English version of KakaoTaxi by next year. I can't imagine the public transport in Pyeongchang is going to be great.

Public Transit Directions

Similar to the KakaoMetro app (Android | iOS), the directions, routes, and times for taking public transportation trips (here from Yonsei to Gangnam as an example) are all presented in English. There's that KakaoTaxi button which just launches that app. I find it a bit disappointing though that the actual step-by-step instructions are still in Korean. Hopefully that gets resolved in a later update. KakaoMetro presents a fully-English step-by-step guide, although that's just for subway trips. These bus trips still show everything in Korean, making it less than ideal for tourists. 

 Driving Directions

Again, info for the various driving routes appears in English, but unfortunately the turn-by-turn directions are still in Korean. You can always try Bing if you need English driving directions. Maybe Kakao can update at least the "turn left in 100m" type instructions by next year.

As an aside, I find that Waze works surprisingly well here, fully in English with even the road names Anglicized. It may not direct you via the most 100% optimal route, but it's sufficient if you need to be driving and are totally unfamiliar. Bit of warning: Waze is often outdated regarding traffic rules, so double-check that the U-turn Waze wants you to make is actually legal at that intersection.  

 Settings Menu

All the settings options are in English now too.

Problems with English-written names

I mentioned that some big-name places can be searched for in English and you get the right result back. Well, take that with a grain of salt. Some places are wildly wrong, and direct you to locations that just have that name in their own name, regardless of, let's call it "preeminence". Take a look at this example:

In the screenshots above, you can see that searching "Yonsei" brought up a glasses store called 연세안경 ("Yonsei Optometry"). I needed to search "Yonsei University" to get the place I obviously meant. This wasn't the only noticeable case. Searching "Everland" brought up some small shop in nearby Gwangmyeong called 에버랜드완구점 ("Everland Toy Store") instead of the massive theme park in Yongin. Searching "LotteWorld" took me to the correct theme park near Gangnam, but "Lotte World" brought me to an office-tel with the wildly euphemistic name of Lotte World Tower Office-tel.

It's possible that the app is preferencing places nearer to me (I'm just south of Seoul right now), but I'm sure when it comes to these big-name places, nobody searching the English names of big attractions is looking to get a pair of glasses or rent a studio apartment.

Final Thoughts

Hey, it's a step in the right direction. At least now you'll have another English option besides the questionable coverage of Google Maps here. I'm looking forward to it continuing to improve. This was only a decimal release, after all, and the first attempt in English, so let's give it some maturing time. Let me know if you find some other funny obviously mistaken results.

KakaoMap still unreleased for iOS at this time, although the older Daum Maps app is still available there, and was updated just two months ago weirdly:
→ 다음 지도, 길찾기, 지하철, 버스 - Daum Maps, Metro, Bus on the App Store
Update: the iOS version is now updated to KakaoMap:
→ Kakao Map (DaumMaps 4.0) on the App Store

Anyway, grab KakaoMap for Android here:
→ Kakao Map (DaumMaps 4.0) - Android Apps on Google Play


  1. How did you get the language settings to English? I can't find it anywhere...

    1. It defaults to my phone's system language. I don't think there's a manual override in the app itself.

    2. Mine isn't showing any English in the app, even though it is my system default. BUT it is searching well using English which is a nice surprise.

    3. Are you sure you're on the latest version? (1.0.10 now). Also are you using iPhone? The iPhone version still doesn't have an English interface as far as I know.

    4. Hi,Im using the android and download the latest version. I still can't get the English version although my phone system language is in English.

  2. Yep, its that I'm on iPhone I suppose. Maybe an update will be coming for iPhone users soon for this^^