MONTE CARLO – The Japanese call it the Sea of Japan. To Koreans, it is known as Dong-hae, or the East Sea.
To the Japanese government, the Sea of Japan should be known as such internationally, a position the government of South Korea calls “colonialist.”
Seoul wants the Sea of Japan to be mentioned concurrently with the East Sea on international charts.
The dispute over the name, simmering between the two neighbors for more than a decade, has once again gone to the International Hydrographic Organization, the global body based in Monaco set up to “support safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment.”
The name issue was taken up at the 18th International Hydrographic Conference held in Monte Carlo last month, and the outcome has led to divergent interpretations in Japan and South Korea.
Japanese government officials said the IHO decided April 26 to continue using the term Sea of Japan in reference to the body of water between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
That position was also reflected in South Korean media.
Quoting officials, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said April 26 in a combined dispatch from Monte Carlo and Seoul that the IHO decided “not to revise a global chart to include the East Sea name for the waters separating the Korean Peninsula and Japan.”
While saying “the decision represented a failure” of South Korean diplomacy, the Yonhap story quoted a senior official at the South Korean Foreign Ministry as saying the matter is not yet finished.
“The IHO meeting decided to delay a decision to include the East Sea name and the issue will be discussed at the next meeting in 2017,” the unnamed senior official said.
South Korea has since 1997 campaigned for the additional use of the East Sea name on the grounds that the term Sea of Japan only became popular globally during Japan’s colonial rule of the peninsula.
Japan says the name Sea of Japan has been used internationally since the 19th century, before the Korean Peninsula came under Japanese rule.
The IHO, which aims to achieve uniformity in nautical charts, has referred to the waters as the Sea of Japan since 1929, when the first edition of its publication Limits of Oceans and Seas was published, according to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.