Live view of Dokdo: People look at a large TV screen showing a live video feed of Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo at Yeonpungmun, the reception area of Cheong Wa Dae, Friday. The presidential office installed the 40-inch LED TV that day to relay the images of Dokdo around the clock as a symbolic gesture to reinforce the country’s sovereignty over the rocky islets.
/ Korea Times photo by Wang Tae-seok
By Lee Tae-hoon
A growing number of countries at the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) have expressed disapproval for Japan’s push to name the body of water it shares with Korea after its country’s name, senior officials said Friday.
“Many IHO members recently made it clear that they do not agree with the singular use of the term, the Sea of Japan, to name the water,” Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said.
Another official said that more than half of the IHO’s working group on the standardization of geographical names rejected a proposal to name the 978,000 square kilometer area as the Sea of Japan.
The working group is made up of experts from 27 of the intergovernmental consultative organization’s 80 member countries.
“The chairman of the IHO working group recently asked its 27 members, including the United States and China, to give their opinion on a compromise deal, which would name it the Sea of Japan and use the East Sea as an alternative name in the appendix,” a government official said, declining to be named.
“In this regard, we have confirmed that slightly more than half of them expressed their disapproval for the proposal.”
She noted that China has also indirectly expressed its displeasure with the suggestion, saying the “decision should be reached through a consensus.”
Government officials said France and Australia have expressed strong support for Korea’s demand to use both the East Sea and Sea of Japan to refer to the body of water.
They, however, declined to give further details, citing the sensitivity of the subject.
“What I can tell you is that it will be difficult to reach a consensus on the issue in the near future, given that it would take a considerable time to narrow opposing views,” said Shin Maeng-ho, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Earlier this month, a U.S. maritime-boundary agency notified the IHO that it would maintain its “single-name policy,” supporting the use of the Sea of Japan.
Meanwhile, Minister Kim told reporters during a regular briefing that Seoul aims to make the international community to refer the body of disputed water as the East Sea.
“The government has been pushing for the parallel use of the East Sea and Sea of Japan since its joining the United Nations (in 1991), but that is not our final goal,” he said.
“Our ultimate aim is the singular use of East Sea,” he said.
He underlined that the appellation, Sea of Japan is a legacy of Tokyo’s 35-year colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, which ended in 1945 upon its defeat in World War II.
Seoul maintains that the IHO should use its preferred name, the East Sea, together with the Sea of Japan as the former has been used by Koreans for the past 2,000 years, far longer compared than the Sea of Japan.
Japan is believed to have begun to refer to the disputed area as the Sea of Japan from the late 18th century.
It has been the dominant appellation of the waters in the past century as it was commonly adopted by cartographers during the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial rule of Korea and the 1950-53 Korean War.
The IHO general meeting, slated for April next year, is expected to decide how to name the body of water between Korea and Japan through a vote.
The Sea of Japan was adopted as the standardized version at the International Hydrographic Conference in 1929, during Japan’s colonial rule over Korea.
The IHO is an intergovernmental consultative and technical organization established in 1921 to support safety and navigation and the protection of the marine environment.
Seoul officially raised the issue at the U.N. Conference of Standardization of Geographical Names held in New York in 1992 and 1998.