I am not sure whether I have all the accurate information. Because of the importance of the subject that may be discussed during the coming April 24 to 28 meetings of theInternational Hydrographic Organization (IHO) in Monaco, however, I decided to write this article today. I would appreciate it if anyone can supply me with more information that can help me in case I decide to write a follow-up on the subject.
The question is whether the sea located between Korea and Japan should be called the East Sea, clearly meaning East Sea of Korea since the sea is located to the east of Korea, or the Sea of Japan as Japan prefers to call for obvious reasons of economic advantages.
The third option is to use both names concurrently. To answer the question correctly, one needs to review the turbulent history of the relation between Japan and Korea. Briefly stated, Japan occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945. The occupation ended when Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces at the end of the World War II. It was 1929, right in the middle of Japan's occupation of Korea, when the name East Sea was changed to Sea of Japan in IHO publications.
Efforts by Korea at IHO to change the name back to the East Seahave not been successful. The question then becomes this. When Japan changes the name while occupying Korea and Korea has no input what-so-ever in the name change, should the new name be accepted as being legitimate? My answer, and I am sure most of you will agree with me, is clearly no.
It may be noted that there is a massive movement to change the name in Washington DC in the United States. Leaders of the Korean Americans in Virginia, Maryland, and the Washington DC are spearheading the movement. Actually, these leaders are very reasonable in demanding that the two names be listed simultaneously. They do not even ask changing the name back to East Sea, which may be asking too much from a country that never really apologized for their long occupation of Korea.
Leaders in the Washington Metro have been so effective that they succeeded in changing the textbook description of the sea to both names in a textbook that is used at all public schools of Virginia. Since the textbook will be delivered beyond the jurisdiction of Virginia, the impact of the name change is expected to be felt beyond the state of Virginia. The final decision on the world-wide change of the name will be made by the International Hydrographic Organization which was established in 1921, although it was called the International HydrographicBureau until 1970. Prior to 1921, the IHO website states that there were "substantial differences in hydrographic procedures charts, and publications" that were used by naval and merchant vessels.
IHO was born after many meetings, which included the International Maritime Conference of 1889 in Washington, D.C., the International Congress of Navigation of 1908 at Saint Petersburg, the International Maritime Conference of 1912 at Saint Petersburg in 1912, and the First International Conference of 1919 in London. The primary objective of the IHO is stated as ensuring "that all the world's seas, oceans and navigable waters are surveyed and charted."
Currently, there are 85 member countries, which include Japan, South Korea, and, believe or not, North Korea. It is truly unfortunate that while leaders of Koreans in South Korea and Korean-Americans in the United States are working hard to restore the good name of East Sea, leaders in North Korea pay no attention to the controversy involving East Sea, only to stay busy threatening South Korea. The movement to add East Sea to the current listing of the Sea of Japan began many years ago, but became more intense this year because of the April meeting of the IHO. In the Washington metropolitan Area alone there are many organizations that actively participated in the movement. These organizations include the Voice of Korean Americans, Korean American Society of Virginia, Korean-American Association of Washington metropolitan Area, Korean American Association of Southern Maryland, Organization of Korean American Women, Federation of Korean Associations USA, and more.
There is no doubt that the movement is in search of justice that had long been denied by Japanese occupation of Korea. At the same time, it is not an easy task to achieve the goal because of the enormous economic power that Japan wields in the global economy. I strongly support, as well as compliment, leaders of the Korean community world-wide, especially those of the Washington metropolitan who have worked tirelessly on the movement for the love of Korea as well as for the promotion of friendship between Japan and Korea by working on listing of two names jointly rather than East Sea alone.
Chang Se-moon is the director of the Gulf Coast Center for Impact Studies. Write to him at: email@example.com.