Korea appeals to int‘l hydrographers to adopt East Sea name
MONACO (Yonhap) -- Korean delegates are finalizing their appeals to international hydrographers to add the name East Sea for the waters separating the Korean Peninsula and Japan, with their quinquennial meeting set to open on Monday here, Seoul officials said.
The five-day, sea-naming conference of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) is scheduled to start with more than 300 delegates from 80 members states attending. Currently, the IHO's sea maps refer to the waters between the neighboring countries as the Sea of Japan.
Since the 2007 conference, South Korea has revved up its diplomatic campaign to press the IHO to concurrently use East Sea and Sea of Japan to refer to the sea at this week's meeting aimed at revising a key document titled "Limits of Oceans and Seas."
The IHO document is considered the basis of oceanic boundaries and names all over the world.
For decades, South Korea has locked horns with Japan over the name of the body of water, with Seoul calling it the East Sea while Tokyo uses the name Sea of Japan. At previous IHO meetings, Japan lobbied for hydrographers to stick with the current name.
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.
"Our government has been exerting our best efforts to ensure that the name 'East Sea' is concurrently used at the IHO meeting," said a senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "It is difficult to predict the outcome of the meeting at this point. At the very least, we will work adamantly to prevent the single use of the name 'Sea of Japan.'"
South Korea sent a delegation of 16 government officials and history professors to the IHO meeting, led by Paik Ji-ah, director-general for international organization at the foreign ministry.
Korea has long campaigned for the adoption of its favored name for the waters that are widely termed the Sea of Japan, since Japan registered that as the official name with the IHO in the early 1920s, when Korea was under Japan's colonial rule.
The IHO published its first oceanographic chart for the region in 1929 and has since updated it three times, but on all of them, the body of water continues to be marked as the Sea of Japan.
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.