[EDITORIALS]At sea with no compass

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[EDITORIALS]At sea with no compass

It seems that during a recent summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last November, Korean President Roh Moo-hyun suggested to his Japanese counterpart that the name of the East Sea (Sea of Japan) be changed to the Sea of Peace.
The Blue House, while acknowledging the idea was mentioned, said it was not an official suggestion and the two nations have not broached the subject since, adding there was no intention on Mr. Roh’s part to relinquish the name East Sea. To see the Blue House scramble to keep its latest crisis under control is unsettling.
It is no news that Korea and Japan have been at odds over the name of the sea.
But that doesn’t mean it is unthinkable for the two countries to sit down and discuss the problem at the appropriate time.
Still, we think this is a significant enough issue that it should not be handled as an impromptu, casual matter at a meeting between the two nations’ leaders.
This is, after all, a very sensitive issue that affects public sentiment, and a serious national matter that could lead to conflict over the question of Dokdo and our territorial waters. Also, preparing for Japan’s response, whether it turns out to be open-minded or not, is essential.
In this sense, the furor now is similar to what Mr. Roh faced when he spewed out strong anti-Japanese comments in regard to Dokdo and other issues. He needs to realize that prudence and careful deliberation are the key. But, as a Blue House official revealed, preliminary consultations took place between Mr. Roh and his Blue House staff but there was no discussion with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other related authorities.
To boot, there was no prior discussion with Japan, either.
The result should have been expected. The Blue House said Mr. Roh mentioned the Sea of Peace merely an example and not as an official suggestion.
Mr. Abe took it at its face value ― a passing suggestion ― and opposed the idea. And the two governments ensured that Mr. Roh’s comments were not regarded as official and agreed not to make them public.
Instead, we learned “officially” that Mr. Roh made the remark as a casual matter, maybe as he tried to make conservation.
There are numerous issues in Korea-Japan relations that could set fire to each country’s respective national sentiments.
We urge the Korean government be more careful in dealing with every one of them.
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