Seoul upset after U.S. agency picks ‘Sea of Japan’

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Seoul upset after U.S. agency picks ‘Sea of Japan’

Seoul has protested a U.S. government agency’s decision to call the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan the “Sea of Japan,” instead of Korea’s preferred name the “East Sea,” diplomatic sources said yesterday.

In yet the latest territorial flare-up between Korea and Japan, an unidentified U.S. oceanic agency submitted an opinion to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) in favor of the sole use Japan’s name after the worldwide authority requested its stance on the controversial issue.

The sources said that Seoul is now trying to persuade IHO member countries to call the sea something less offensive for Koreans, an issue that Japan and Korea has wrangled over for decades.

The IHO calls the body of water the Sea of Japan or Japan Sea, though it has been called the East Sea by Koreans for nearly 2,000 years, according to historical documents. Seoul says that the IHO should use its preferred name together with the Sea of Japan.

“An international consensus is forming that the sea should be called both ways,” one source said.

After Seoul complained through a diplomatic channel to the United States that it was taking sides with Japan, Washington responded that the naming decision was just the opinion of one of its agencies and not the country’s official stance, the sources said.

The United States, however, is adopting a single-name policy, sharing among its government agencies the names for global organizations, geography and personnel.

One source said that Britain has also submitted the same opinion as the United States to the IHO, though whether Seoul has lodged a complaint to London is not yet known.

The U.S. agency’s decision was submitted to an IHO working group that was formed in June 2009 to address controversial oceanic names across the world.

The group, comprised of experts from 27 of the 80 member countries, is known to be planning to finalize a report on the controversial names ahead of the IHO general meeting in April next year.

The IHO has published reports on worldwide hydrographic names three times in 1929, 1937 and 1953 - all of them describing the body of water as the Japan Sea (Sea of Japan).

Seoul has been pushing the IHO to reflect its position for the simultaneous use of the East Sea and Sea of Japan, saying that Korea was either under Japanese colonial rule or the Korean War during the times of the previous three reports and thus could not make its voice heard.

The 18th IHO general meeting, which is held every five years, is scheduled for April 2012 in Monaco and could settle controversial names by putting them up to a vote and announce plans for a fourth edition of international hydrographic names.

North Korea is also known to side with the South on the naming issue and has submitted an opinion to the IHO in favor of the simultaneous use of the East Sea and Sea of Japan.

South Korea sticks to the sole use of East Sea in books, maps and documents, though some Koreans have pointed out the relative obscurity of their country’s preferred name.

The controversy over the name of the body of water comes as Seoul and Tokyo have locked horns in recent weeks over the rekindled sovereignty issue of Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets, which are also claimed by Japan.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]

美 ‘동해를 일본해로 단독표기’ 의견제출 파문

미국이 동해(East Sea)를 일본해(Sea of Japan)로 단독표기해야 한다는 공식 의견을 국제기구에 제출한 것으로 확인됐다.

8일 복수의 외교소식통에 따르면 미국은 최근 국제수로기구(IHO)에 제출한 서한에서 동해를 일본해로 단독표기해야 한다는 공식 의견을 제출했으며 IHO는 이를 자체 홈페이지에 게시했다. 이는 국제수로기구(IHO) '해양경계' 실무그룹 의장이 동해 표기에 대한 공식 의견을 제출해달라고 요청한데 따른 것. 영국도 동해를 일본해로 단독표기해야 한다는 의견을 제출한 것으로 확인됐다.

이에 대해 정부는 미국이 일방적으로 일본을 두둔하고 있다고 반발하며 한·일 양국의 입장을 균형있게 반영해 동해와 일본해 표기를 병행해야 한다는 뜻을 외교경로를 통해 미국 정부에 전달했다.

미국은 자국내 수로기구가 제출한 의견이며 국가의 공식 입장이 아니라는 입장을 밝히고 있다. 그러나 해당 수로기구가 정부의 예산으로 운영되는데다 사안 자체가 외교적으로 중요한 의미를 갖는다는 점에서 파장이 예상된다.


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