This map, made by Shogo Mitsukuri in 1844, shows that Japanese cartographers used “Sea of Joseon” (the old name of Korea) to refer to the body of water bordered by Korea, Japan and Russia.
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Collecting old maps has become a patriotic mission after Kim Hye-jung discovered an old map designed by a French cartographer in the 1600s.
Kim, director of the Hye-jung Cultural Research Institute and Museum at Kyung Hee University in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, found it by accident at an old bookstore in Tokyo 40 years ago. She was a college student majoring in literature at that time.
Now she travels all over the world to find old maps using the East Sea in reference to the body of water bordered by Korea, Japan and Russia.
Kim, who was born and grew up in Japan, launched a campaign to revert the name of the sea back to the one widely used on world maps before Korea was annexed to Japan in 1909.
“South Koreans need to be more vocal on the naming dispute over the sea,” Kim said Thursday. “Evidence backs that it was widely called either the East Sea or ‘Gulf of Korea’ before the imperialist period.”
In her life-long search for old maps, she has obtained approximately 3,000 examples.
Looking closely at the maps, Kim, also a professor of arts and humanity, found a unique pattern in the shift of the name of the body of waters from the East Sea to Sea of Japan over the centuries.
“The old maps that I have show that from the 17th century to the early 18th century, the sea body was marked either the East Sea or ‘Oriental Sea.’ From the 18th to the early 19th century, either the ‘Ocean of Korea’ or ‘Gulf of Korea’ was widely used,” she said.
“Among old maps that I have, the name Sea of Japan first appeared on maps produced between the mid-18th and 19th century. East Sea was also used on maps made in those days.”
Japanese cartographers, such as Shogo Mitsukuri, used the name “Sea of Joseon” (the old name of Korea) to refer to the body of waters on maps made in the 1800s.
Kim argued the change in the naming of the sea was affected by expansionist Japan during the colonial period.
Currently, about 30 percent of modern world maps mark it as the East Sea, while the remaining 70 percent still follow the guideline of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)’s standardization, which is Sea of Japan.
Kim donated thousands of her maps to Kyung Hee University. Because of space limitations, the university museum is displaying only around 140 examples, leaving thousands of others in storage.
In July, Kim exhibited five old maps designed by Japanese cartographers in the 1800s that use the name 'Sea of Joseon,' at a museum in Mongolia, in collaboration with the Mongolian government.
“These maps showed that back in the 1800s, even Japanese people called the sea the same name Koreans now use. This is evidence that can justify why the East Sea, not Sea of Japan, needs to be used,’” Kim stressed.
She calls collecting old maps an intelligence war.
Kim flew back and forth from Korea to the Netherlands seven times in the early 2000s to buy an old map that used the East Sea.
“When I first found it at an old bookshop in the Hague, my heart was beating so hard. I tried hard not to reveal my emotions on my face because if the owner recognized how desperately I wanted it, I knew the price would go up sharply,” she said.
“So I pretended not to be interested in it and left the store without purchasing anything five times.”
On her sixth time visit to the bookshop, she bought several old books, along with the old map.
“As he saw me five times before, the owner knew how much I wanted the map. When I put the old map in my shopping list, he smiled at me because his hunch said I would go for the map some day,” she said.
“I never say I want discounts. We, collectors, never ask those who own the cultural items to cut the price. But I assume that the way that I put the map with other items in my shopping list would have sent a clear message that I wanted him to use special consideration on prices.”
김혜정 경희대 고지도 박물관장은 동해가 표기된 옛날 지도를 모으는 사람으로 유명하다. 40년전 우연히 동경의 한 서점에서 1600년대 제작된 프랑스인이 만든 지도의 아름다움에 심취해 지도를 모으기 시작한 김교수가 현재까지 모은 지도는 총 3,000여점에 달한다.
최근 김관장은 몽골에서 1800년대 일본인이 제작한 지도 다섯점을 전시한 바 있다, 이 지도들에 동해는 “조선해”라고 표기되어 있다. 1800년대 당시 일본지도제작자들도 동해를 한국이 부르는 방식으로 표기해 왔음을 입증하는 증거인셈이다.
김혜정 관장은 고지도를 모으는 일이 일종의 정보전이라고 주장한다. 동해 표기된 서양 고지도를 모으기 위해 네덜란드를 여섯번 방문한 적도 있다고 털어 놓았다. 처음 고지도를 발견했을 때 심장이 뛰면서 간절하게 원했지만, 이런 감정을 고지도 소유자가 알게 되면 고지도 가격이 엄청나게 뛴다는 것을 잘 알기에 표정관리에 들어간다고 한다.
“지도를 모으는 사람은 절대 가격을 흥정하지 않는다”고 김관장은 말한다.
지도를 구입하기 위해 다섯번 동일한 서점을 방문한 후에 다른 고서적 여러권과 함께 지도를 쇼핑목록에 올려놓으면 선수들끼리는 적당한 가격에서 가격이 이뤄진다고 한다.