The publisher of Kojien, the most authoritative dictionary in Japan, has been stuck between a rock and a hard place over its definition of Taiwan as a province of China, prompting a request for a correction from the self-ruled island.
Since its first publication in 1955, the dictionary has become a household name. The media and other organizations often use it to get the final say on a word’s meaning. The seventh edition is slated to be released next month.
On Friday, Iwanami Shoten, the publisher, said Kojien’s entry on Taiwan is in line with the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique, in which Japan recognized the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China and “fully understands and respects” the PRC’s stance that Taiwan is an inalienable part of its territory.
Japan has since maintained ties with Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, on a nongovernmental, working-level basis.
“We believe these descriptions in the Kojien are not mistaken,” Iwanami Shoten said.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan, Taiwan’s de facto embassy here, said in a statement Dec. 13 that it issued an objection and a request for correction to Iwanami Shoten on Dec. 11 for its entry on Taiwan, which cites a map on the administrative divisions of the PRC and describes the island as a province of China.
“(Taiwan) is an independent sovereign state, and is in no way a part of the People’s Republic of China,” the office said.
On Monday, a spokesman for the office in Tokyo said it “regretted” Iwanami Shoten’s response.
Taiwan has been governed separately from mainland China since they split amid a civil war in 1949. The PRC government in Beijing has long tried to diplomatically isolate the ROC’s self-governed island of 24 million people.
While Japan and Taiwan severed diplomatic ties in 1972, the two have been robust trade partners. Tourism has also been on the rise, with the combined tally of visits topping 6 million in 2016.
The exchange comes ahead of the publication of Kojien’s seventh edition, which will hit the shelves on Jan. 12. The dictionary has added 10,000 new words, including apuri (app) and konkatsu (marriage hunting).