Old Maps Suggest 3rd Name for Sea At Issue With Japan

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Old Maps Suggest 3rd Name for Sea At Issue With Japan

A valuable collection of more than 130 old maps may help settle the dispute between Korea and Japan over the correct name for the East Sea. The maps, drawn in the 18th and 19th centuries when Europeans were moving into Asia, describe the East Sea or Sea of Japan as "Sea of Corea."

Eighty maps date from the 18th century. The rest are from the 19th century up until Japan annexed Korea in 1910. The maps can be seen on the Internet page titled "East Asian Library Map Collection" (www.usc.edu/isd/ locations/ssh/eastasian/maps.htm).

The maps were found in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United States and other countries. Some 61 maps were found in Britain, although most of the 19th century maps were found in the United States.

Almost all have one thing in common in that they call the East Sea the "Sea of Korea." The sea is referred to as "Corean Sea" or "Sea of Corea" in English, "Mer de Coree" in French and "Zee van Korea" in German. Only two maps from the late 19th century refer to the "Sea of Japan."

The University of Southern California recently bought the maps from Korean-American antique document collector David Lee. Researcher Goh Hye-ryeung and other National History Compilation Committee of the Republic of Korea researchers visited the university to confirm the maps' authenticity.

"We were simply astonished to see so many East Sea-related maps all in one place," Dr. Goh said. One of his staff members added, "This is important evidence that strengthens our contention that "Sea of Japan" is not the proper name."

The naming of the East Sea has long been a source of controversy between Korea and Japan along with the problem of Tokdo island. In such disputes, old maps are vital. The more historical evidence on one's side, the the better, historians say. And of course, the older the map, the better.

The East Sea issue was discussed at a world geography conference last August. Koreans reacted positively to Professor E. V. Baklanov of the Russian Academy of Sciences when he presented a 1768 Russian map that refers to the sea to the east of Korea as the "Sea of Korea." Among the recently discovered maps, the oldest one dates back to 1710, fifty years older than the Russian map.

The Korean history researchers expressed their regret that the committee does not have enough money to buy the David Lee Collection from the University of Southern California, but the Korean public can at least view some of the maps on the university's web site.

A British map from 1740 used "Gulf of Corea."

by Jung Jae-wal

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