Rude revisionThe U.S. Board on Geographic Names recently revised its description of Dokdo in the East Sea to a territory with undesignated sovereignty. Both the government and the Korean Embassy in the United States were caught completely unaware.
The board reclassified a piece of Korean territory into one without a definite owner, without saying a word to the Korean government beforehand.
This is more than a disappointment. It gives us a sense of a betrayal. To describe Dokdo, the board used the name “Liancourt Rocks,” which is more neutral, but it had clearly stated that it was under Korean sovereignty.
However, the board suddenly changed the description to “undesignated sovereignty” recently. It also changed the order of variant names, listed below the official name of Liancourt Rocks. Tokto, another version of Dokdo, used to come first but this time Take-sima, a variant of the Japanese name for the islets, came before Tokto. In response to an inquiry by the Korean Embassy in the United States, the board said it simply rearranged its database according to the U.S. government policy over the Liancourt Rocks. It sounds like the board followed the U.S. government policy intending to be more neutral over Dokdo’s sovereignty, but we cannot consent to that.
The reason given by the board does not explain why it suddenly modified the description to undesignated sovereignty now, after the board had been using Liancourt Rocks as an official name for Dokdo for over 30 years.
Why on earth did that suddenly change?
The United States needs to give us a satisfactory explanation on why the board adjusted the description and altered the order of additional names of Dokdo. It needs to explain why the board neither notified nor consulted the Korean government in advance though it must have known that this was a sensitive issue. There is a problem with the way the United States dealt with the issue, ignoring the minimum of consideration for its ally.
Still, the government and the Korean Embassy in the United States cannot escape responsibility in this affair. They failed to figure out what the board was planning to do in advance and to make the appropriate moves to cope with it. The government should demand an explanation from the United States and correct the description over sovereignty through legal and historical avenues.