Sunday, May 1, 2011

[East {Sea] of Japan}

The Korea Times is reporting that Seoul will propose that that body of water between the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago be officially called both East Sea and the Sea of Japan.

And although the Korea Herald is reporting that some people in South Korea aren't happy about that — it's the East Sea and the East Sea only! — I think it is a fine solution.

In fact, it fits in perfectly with the International Hydrographic Organization's policies on the matter (see also here):
When two or more countries share a geographical feature, its designation is generally standardized through consultations among the countries concerned. If the effort to standardize it fails, however, the names used by each of the countries are used concurrently. This general rule of international cartography is also confirmed in the International Hydrographic Organization Technical Resolution A4.2.6. adopted in 1974 and the United Nations Resolution in the Standardization of Geographical Names Ⅲ/20 adopted in 1977.
There are many in the K-blogopshere who say that Korea is wrong on this issue (not true, since the IHO supports the Korean position) or that Korea is foolish to make a big deal out of this (debatable, since pushing the name allows it to gain currency and acceptance but sometimes comes across as annoying and petty).



  1. Are they pushing for "West Sea" as well?

  2. Unless Beijing starts trying to call it, say, the North China Sea, probably not. Even then, they would probably insist only on Yellow Sea.

    Hwanghae (i.e., "Yellow Sea") is established in Korea not only as the name of that westerly body of water, but also as a historical province and today one of the North Korean provinces that borders it.

    The East China Sea, referred to as the South Sea in Korean, would be a more likely candidate, but the impetus is not likely there. Unlike with Ilbon Hae (lit, 'Japan Sea') in Korean, the widely used English name for the South Sea was never foisted on Koreans or subsequently widely used in Korea.

    I'll bet most South Koreans are unaware that the essentially undisputed English name for that body of water to the south is 'East China Sea' to begin with. Perhaps if they did...

  3. Actually, a quick glance at some other materials indicates that what South Koreans refer to as Namhae (lit, 'South Sea') may just extend to the waters immediately off the southern coast of the mainland until it hits Chejudo and the Korea Strait.

    In other words, Namhae may refer to just one smaller arm of the East China Sea enclosed by nearby Korean and Japanese islands. If that is the case, then saying that Namhae is part of the East China Sea is not really particularly problematic (except that how the Chinese write the East China Sea — 東海 (just 'East Sea') — is what Koreans call the East Sea, or Sea of Japan).


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