Dokdo in East Sea or Sea of Japan?
By Choi Yearn-hong
The name of the sea, East Sea and Sea of Japan, has become a symbolic problem between Japan and Korea, since the neighboring countries have each claimed a single ― but different ― name for the sea between the two. I have been proposing the joint use of both names for the sea, if the two nations cannot agree on a single acceptable name, such as Blue Sea or Green Sea.
Strange to say, the Japanese government has not been sympathetic to this nominal demand at all, because Sea of Japan has been the prevailing name in almost all maps over the past 100 years or more. Moreover, it has recently made clear that the Dokdo islets are part of its own territory, calling them Takeshima, even though many old Japanese maps showed that Dokdo was part of Korea, not Japan.
Strange to say, the Japanese government has not been sympathetic to this nominal demand at all, because the Sea of Japan has been the prevailing name on almost all maps over the past 100 years or more.
President Lee Myung-bak visited Japan and attempted to create a new atmosphere for the common future of the two countries, yet now stands betrayed by the Japanese government. It is unfortunate that Dokdo ― and the economic exclusion zone (EEZ) ― will produce more conflicts in the near future.
The Japanese government did not understand, and has not shown any compassion to the Korean people's legitimate complaint.
In the last stage of Japanese colonial rule over Korea, the Korean people lost their names and were forced to have Japanese names. The name of East Sea disappeared in the wave of Japanese imperial power emerging around the turn of the 20th century.
The United Nations set up a principle of using the two names, when two nations dispute a single name of the same sea.
But the Japanese government has denied the use of the two names, insisting on Sea of Japan. Therefore, I propose to all mapmakers to print the name of the sea as a poetic mission for justice and fairness.
I came across a children's book and found a striking message for all adults to appreciate, including all mapmakers. An Apollo astronaut said to us that understanding of the places is more important than journeying to new place or places. He further said that we would face the age of assimilation. What a joy to find his words in a children's book!
Michael Collins, command module pilot of Apollo 11 wrote a very interesting and important message to us in his essay, "Into the Unknown'' as an introduction to Marco Polo, a children's book published in 1992 (New York: Chelsea House).
Those who are interested in the past exploration should now search for justice and fairness of the names of places, including the name of the sea. All names are poetic made sometime ago, after all.
Role of Mapmakers
Does the map clarify the name of the sea? Not yet. The Sea of Japan in the map does not serve as justice or fairness to the Korean people, because the Sea of Japan is their East Sea, so they register their discontent with mapmakers who print Sea of Japan only.
National Geographic and some mapmakers accepted their proposal, but many do not print the two names of the sea on their maps.
The use of maps in human communication is continually increasing and diversifying, reflecting the range of interests, knowledge and aspirations ― of what can be or should be ``comprehended.''
Modern maps should increase and enhance the knowledge of the land and seashores, islands and high seas. The map should lead users to the land and sea with a sense of justice and fairness. It should not only be for the rich and powerful nations, it should be fair to all nations.
Fairness should be derived from the political history of the land and the sea, and historic international relations between countries. The Sea of Japan and the East Sea are the two legitimate names of the waters between Japan and Korea. The Sea of Japan, eliminating the East Sea, has been the prevailing name since Japan emerged as a powerful military nation around the turn of the 20th century and colonized Korea in 1910.
This is part of the sad and unfortunate political history of Japan and Korea. Modern mapmakers should recognize the lost name of the Korean people and their sea under Japanese rule and should print the two names of the sea for the purpose of restoring the dignity of the once colonized nation. The two names in this case reflect the existence of the two nations, and remind people that their history is one of unequal relations. One name over the sea between Japan and Korea is not just and fair.
In the 19th century, Hegel proposed reasonable pluralism, not a Utopian philosophy, which guaranteed a fair system of cooperation over time from one generation to the next, where those engaged in cooperation are viewed as free and equal citizens and normal cooperating members of society. Under reasonable pluralism, it is valid to use both the Sea of Japan and the East Sea. Two names for the same body of water may sound unacceptable to some people, but they are possible in the age of assimilation. The name of the sea should not be decided by the simple majority rule of nations in UN organizations. Majority rule is a product of utilitarian value, because justice is not necessarily served by such a principle. In ``A Theory of Justice'' (1971), John Rawls proposed a concept of justice he called ``justice as fairness.'' According this, the most reasonable principles of justice are those that would be the objects of mutual agreement by persons under fair conditions.
Two names ― the Sea of Japan and the East Sea ― not excluding one, can be a reasonable choice to map makers from Hegel to Bishop and Kim Chun-soo, and to the children who listen to astronaut Michael Collins' message and to the children of the future. That is the way to prepare for the age of assimilation. All mapmakers in the world should ask a simple question: What is a map?
The writer is a retired professor and a long-time columnist for The Korea Times. The article is an adaptation of his memoir to be published in the United States this year.