The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), an intergovernmental organization representing maritime bureaucrats around the world, overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by Japan to stick to the single use of the Sea of Japan name to refer to the body of waters separating it with the Korean Peninsula, Seoul officials said Thursday.
Korean and Japanese delegates have locked horns at this week's IHO meeting aimed at revising global charts, titled "Limits of Oceans and Seas" and better known as S-23, which at present refers only to the Sea of Japan. Seoul wants the chart revised to include the name East Sea as well.
Japan suggested partly revising the global chart without touching on contentious issues, in an apparent bid for the status quo, but only Tokyo voted for the proposal, Seoul officials said.
The remaining 77 IHO members, including Korea, opposed or abstained, according to officials.
Chang Dong-hee, a South Korean delegate, said, "Our side voted against the Japanese proposal because it is based on a premise that the current edition of S-23 showing the sole use of Sea of Japan is valid."
South Korea has wanted both references, East Sea and Sea of Japan, to be written in parallel until an agreement is reached.
With no conclusion reached on the naming issue between South Korea and Japan, the issue will be further discussed on the final day of the five-day IHO meeting on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The naming issue is particularly sensitive for Seoul as Tokyo has continually stepped up efforts to claim the Korean islets of Dokdo in the East Sea. South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the volcanic outcroppings.
South Korea has long campaigned for the adoption of its favored name for the waters that are widely termed the Sea of Japan, after Japan registered the term as the official name with the IHO in the early 1920s, when Korea was under Japan's colonial rule.
Korean historians and experts believe the sea's original name was the East Sea, but that the term Sea of Japan became more widely adopted because Korea failed to properly counter Japan's campaign to change the name due to Korea's colonization by Japan and the 1950-53 Korean War (Yonhap)