Google has caved in to pressure from the South Korean government and agreed to implement a system that will censor certain search terms unless the user can prove he or she is not a minor.

If a user attempts a search for certain 'adult-themed' terms in Korean and provided by the authorities, the site will ask for the number on their national identity card, which will then be used to verify that that they are at least 19. Failing to do so will lock them out of that list of search terms.

Dual approach

Google's existing SafeSearch filtering technology will also be used as a safety net when the new service begins in September, possibly according Google the respect it needs to become more competitive in Korea . Local search engines have remained ahead of the pack over the six years Google has been operating in the country.

Speaking to The Korea Times , analyst Kim Kyung-mo explained the move: "Google wants to [kill] two birds with [one] stone. It wants to drum up support for its Korean-language services by improving its corporate image. In addition, the company is complying with the government."

As for Korea's legitimate internet users (i.e. most of its citizens), the prospect of a government database tying national identity numbers to all their so-called 'adult' search terms surely raises quite a spectre.