South Koreans are campaigning to change the name of the Sea of Japan according to a report today in The Korea Times.
Koreans commonly refer to the sea on the east side of their peninsula as "Tonghae’’ (East Sea), not "Sea of Japan," the name officially recognized by the international community. So the Korean government and some civic groups have been campaigning to get the international community to adopt the English name "East Sea’’ to replace "Sea of Japan." Japan is opposed to the change.
However, some in Korea are now pushing the name "Sea of Korea," instead, claiming it is more historically accurate. They cite the fact that European maps produced in the 17th and 18th centuries, mostly used Korean names to described the body of water. Among the examples is a map of Japan produced by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin of France which calls the sea the "Mer de Coree.’’
In the late 1700's, British and French cartographers appear to have been the first to use the name "Sea of Japan.’’ By the late 19th century, the term had become commonplace. At the 1929 Monaco Conference of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) the name "Sea of Japan" was officially adopted, and that was the term published in the authoritative "Limits of Oceans and Seas.’’ Korea did not attend the conference since the country was under Japanese rule at the time.
The issue may come up again this August when the United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names in New York.