JHOD TOP > The Name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea)

The Name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea)


1. The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea)


The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) is the only internationally established name for the sea area concerned. The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) became recognized internationally by the early 19th Century during which Japan had been in a state of national seclusion.
(Reference 1:The establishment of the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) )


Countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States use the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) for making their nautical chart. This is because the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) is established in the guidelines on names of seas, published by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) entitled "Limits of Oceans and Seas" to which countries in the world refer when making nautical charts.
(Reference 2: The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) established by "Limits of Oceans and Seas" ).


2. The ROK's assertion for the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea)


The Republic of Korea (the ROK) started to object to the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) at the Sixth United Nations Conference on Standardization of Geographic Names, held in 1992 by asserting that the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) became widespread as a result of Japan's "expansionism and colonial rule". In addition, the ROK asserted at the meetings of the IHO since 1997 that "East Sea" should be used together with the name - Sea of Japan in "Limits of Oceans and Seas".
(Reference 3:Major historical background related to the IHO).


The ROK, at every opportunity, has insisted afterwards that the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) should be changed to "East Sea", or should be used together with "East Sea".


3. The ROK's assertion in the International Hydrographic Organization


The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) is an international organization for the purpose of the utmost unification of the hydrographic charts and publications such as nautical chart and lighthouse lists. The IHO has consistently used Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) as the name for the sea area concerned since the first edition (1928) of "Limits of Oceans and Seas".


If "East Sea" were used alongside the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) in "Limits of Oceans and Seas" which is the guideline regarding names on sea, it would surely lead to confusion among navigators. This would be an act against a purpose of the IHO which is to standardize hydrographic charts and publications to the maximum extent possible, and is totally unacceptable.
(Reference 4: "East Sea" applied to multiple sea areas).


The Japan Coast Guard, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, emphatically refutes the ROK's groundless assertions based on the historic facts and evidence under the firm principle that the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) has been the only internationally established name and will call for better understanding of the issue and support for the position of Japan from the international community including the IHO.


Link


Japan’s position for the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) (Web page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)


Information of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)


Reference


Reference 1: The establishment of the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea)


It is said that the first appearance of the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) was in "Kunyu Wanguo Quantu" by Matteo Ricci (1602).

Until the end of the 18th Century, the Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) was an unknown sea area, and the shape of the Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) seen in European maps of that area was far from the shape we know at present.

In the late 18th Century, however, the great improvement of surveying technology such as the invention of the chronometer (a watch to measure correct time on the sea), enabled the measurement of longitude with high precision, indispensable for accurate surveying. In the Sea of Japan, surveys using the latest surveying technology were carried out by explorers such as La Perouse (France), Broughton (British), and Krusenstern (Russia). Regarding the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea), Krusenstern described, based on an accurate map, that "People also call this sea area the Sea of Korea, but because only a small part of this sea touches the Korean coast, it is appropriate to name it "the Sea of Japan" (Journey around the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 Volume 3).


Further surveys into the Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) were conducted by European cartographers, explorers and navigators succeedingly. By the beginning of 19th Century, the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) became established internationally as the name indicating this sea area.


Hydrographic Authorities of the U.K. (since 1863), the U.S.A (since 1854), Russia and France (since each country’s Hydrographic Department began the publication of a nautical chart of the sea area around the Sea of Japan (Japan Sea)) have solely used the Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) in their nautical charts related to this sea area since their first edition.


Figure: Transition of names in the maps made by countries other than Japan and the ROK



The ROK asserts that the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) became widespread as a result of Japanese expansionism and colonial rule.

Survey on the historic transition of the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) in maps made in countries other than Japan and the ROK revealed however that the name - "East Sea" was much less prevalent than other names, and the name - Sea of Japan had already been internationally recognized and firmly established by the early 19th century during which Japan had been in a state of national seclusion. Therefore the ROK’s assertion has no solid foundation.


Reference 2: The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) established by "Limits of Oceans and Seas"


"Limits of Oceans and Seas" has consistently used the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) as the name for the concerned sea area since its first edition (1928).


This is because the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) was already established internationally as the sole name indicating the Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) when "Limits of Oceans and Seas" was published in 1928. Japan did not participate in the process of the establishment of this name at all (Reference 1: The establishment of the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea)). In addition, Japan did not undertake any kind of demarche in order to have the name Sea of Japan put in "Limits of Oceans and Seas" in its first edition. This is clear from following Japan's remark recorded in the minutes of "The first Supplementary International Hydrographic Conference. (April 1929)".


"Japanese Delegates had objected to the proposal submitted to the previous Conference of 1926, since it was rather a political and diplomatic question and exceed the scope of the Conference. Nevertheless, the Japanese Delegation was in favour of a delimitation of the seas after due study of the problem in accordance with the guiding principles laid down by the Bureau".


If Japan had any intention to actively propagate the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) worldwide, it would not have had any concern about the political and diplomatic problems regarding the names and limits of seas as such, nor objected the proposal to prepare the guidelines, even temporarily.


Figure: "Limits of Oceans and Seas"



Reference 3: Major Historical Background Related to IHO


Year Event Details
1921 The establishment of "The International Hydrographic Bureau"
Japan became the member state of "The International Hydrographic Bureau"
"The International Hydrographic Bureau"(IHB) is a predecessor of "the International Hydrographic Organization"(IHO).
1928 Publication of the first edition of the "Limits of Oceans and Seas" Published by "the International Hydrographic Bureau".The Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) was used solely in the guideline.
1937 Publication of the second edition of the "Limits of Oceans and Seas" The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) was used solely in the guideline.
1953 Publication of the third edition of the "Limits of Oceans and Seas" The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) was used solely in the guideline.
1957 The ROK became the member state of "The International Hydrographic Bureau"  
1970 "The International Hydrographic Organization convention" entered into effect "The International Hydrographic Bureau"(IHB) shifted to "the International Hydrographic Organization" (IHO) based on the convention.
1986 Compilation of the draft fourth edition of "Limits of Oceans and Seas" The name Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) was described solely in the draft. The ROK did not make an objection against the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea).
However, it was not published due to the lack of consensus among the member states for areas other than Sea of Japan.
1991 The ROK became member state of the U.N.  
1992 The Sixth United Nations Conference on Standardization of Geographical Names The ROK officially asserted for the first time that the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) be changed to "East Sea".
1997 The 15th International Hydrographic Conference The ROK insisted for the first time that the name of Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) in "Limits of Oceans and Seas" should be used together with "East Sea".
The ROK repeated similar assertion at the following 16th International Hydrographic Conference (2002) and the 17th International Hydrographic Conference (2007).
2002 The IHB Circular Letter Following the ROK’s assertion, IHB sent to all member states its Circular Letter proposing that the draft of the fourth edition of "Limits of Oceans and Seas" which leaves blank pages related to the Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) in order to put to the vote its publication without any prior notices to Japan.
Japan strongly protested against IHB’s such handling and the IHB withdrew the Circular Letter succeedingly.
2012 The 18th International Hydrographic Conference The ROK repeated the assertion that "East Sea" should be used together with the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) in "Limits of Oceans and Seas". The conference agreed not to take any further decision on the guideline.
The news release document by Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(This site is only available in Japanese.)  http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/press/release/24/4/0426_07.html

The name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) has been consistently and solely used in "Limits of Oceans and Seas" since its first publication in 1928. The ROK, however, had not raised this issue in "United Nations Conference on Standardization of Geographical Names" or "the International Hydrographic Organization" (IHO) until the beginning of the 1990s and the ROK used the name of Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) even in its own nautical charts. In other words, there is the historic fact that the ROK did not make an objection against the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) even after World War II. It is in 1995 that the ROK started to use "East Sea" in its own nautical charts.


Reference 4: “East Sea” Applied to Multiple Sea Area


There are plural sea areas named "East Sea" around the world.


For example, China calls the East China Sea "Tonghai", which also means "East Sea" in China. South China Sea is called "Biendong" in Vietnam, which means "East Sea" in Vietnamese and thus "East Sea" is officially used as an English name for the water by the Government of Vietnam. A name that means "East Sea" is frequently used in Europe as well, such as "Ostsee" in Germany and "Ostersjon" in Sweden both for Baltic Sea which mean "East Sea" in each language.


Thus, "East Sea" can hardly be an international specific name for a certain limited area of water. Using such a name used for many different waters in the world as an international name must bring confusion among navigators worldwide.


The ROK, in this regard, calls seas surrounding the Korean Peninsula "Sohae", "Namhae", and "Donghae/Tonghae" depending on the direction from the country (which will be “West Sea”, “South Sea”, and “East Sea” respectively if shown in English). However, the ROK insists on changing only the name - Sea of Japan (Japan Sea) to "East Sea", and have never asserted changing the Yellow Sea to "West Sea" and the East China Sea to "South Sea".