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Politics & Security

Strange Korean Map Shows ‘East Sea’ Written for Two Different Water Bodies

The Sankei Shimbun

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Above: Takeshima, (Okinoshima-cho, Shimane Prefecture) in the Sea of Japan, is called Dokdo on South Korea’s 1977 map that appears to be a copy (with place names changed) of a 1960 Japanese Coast Guard map. 

 

A nautical chart issued by the South Korean government in 1977 shows the term “East Sea” being used for not just the Sea of Japan but also the East China Sea, a Japanese academic has revealed.

 

The revelation comes amid South Korea’s ongoing attempt to rename the Sea of Japan as the East Sea on international maps.

 

According to Associate Professor Rikinobu Funasugi of Shimane University, an expert in historical geography, the nautical map bears a close resemblance to one issued by the Japan Coast Guard in 1960 – which refers to the East China Sea as the East Sea.

 

It is thought that South Korea copied the Japan Coast Guard map, altering the Sea of Japan to East Sea in the process, resulting in a strange map with East Sea written twice to describe two separate marine areas.

 

Funasugi’s discovery is effectively proof that South Korea’s claims about the “East Sea” lack consistency.

 

 

 

Close Resemblance to the Japan Coast Guard Map

 

The Japan Coast Guard exchanges nautical charts with other countries to improve the accuracy of its charts. Funasugi reached his conclusion about the 1977 Korean map after examining more than 100 stored maps.

 

The official title of the bizarre map is the 4th edition of “The East Sea and The Yellow Sea” issued in 1977. On the map, both the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea are described as the “East Sea,” meaning the term is used twice to refer to two different marine areas.

 

Using the same name for two different ocean areas must be avoided because it confuses navigators. So why did the South Korean government do it?

 

The 1960 publication of the 4th edition of “The Sea of Japan and The Yellow Sea” by the Japan Coast Guard is key.

 

A detailed comparison of the 1960 Japanese map and the 1977 Korean map reveals the latter describing the Sea of Japan as The East Sea, and Takeshima (Okinoshima-cho, Shimane Prefecture) as “Dokdo”. 

 

The names were changed in line with South Korea’s stance. However, apart from the name changes, the two maps are similar in terms of coloring, water depth, place names, and lettering.

 

 

 

 

No Specific References to Map’s Origin    

 

According to Funasugi, “East Sea” was the international name used to describe the East China Sea between the late 19th century and mid-20th century. This is why the International Hydrographic Organization’s 1953 publication, “Limits of Oceans and Seas” refers to the East China Sea as the East Sea (using the Chinese reading).]

 

The Japan Coast Guard map also refers to the East China Sea as “The East Sea”. It is thought that when South Korea copied the Japan Coast Guard map in the late 1970s, it changed the designation “Sea of Japan” to the “East Sea” – meaning that the designation “East Sea” was displayed in two separate areas on the same map.

 

Apparently, countries often refer to other nations’ maps for items such as water depth, if they are difficult to measure from home. The Japan Coast Guard map, “The Sea of Japan and The Yellow Sea” makes reference to nautical charts made by countries such as Britain and China.

 

However, the Korean map of 1977 is vague, and there are no clear references. It is likely that despite all the revisions, the 4th edition kept the “East Sea” wording that was present in the 1st edition.

 

 

Sea of Japan is the Internationally Recognized Term 

 

The Italian missionary Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was the first person to use the term Sea of Japan, in his world atlas issued in 1602. It supposedly became an established name across the world in the early 19th century.

 

South Korea first objected to the term Sea of Japan at a UN conference in 1992. It made claims such as, “The name ‘East Sea’ has been used for 2,000 years,” and “The term Sea of Japan was forced upon us during colonial rule”. 

In the map in question, South Korea has listed the Sea of Japan as the East Sea, but also added “Sea of Japan” in parentheses. 

 

Usage of the name East Sea to describe the East China Sea is rarely seen in recent world maps, but China still uses the term when referring to the East China Sea. 

 

“South Korea claims that the ‘East Sea has been used for 2,000 years’ but in the 1960s and 1970s, it used the same term to describe a completely different marine area. The 1977 map clearly highlights this inconsistency,” says Funasugi.

 

“The name ‘East Sea’ is used on a regional level. It has only been used in the Korean Peninsula. There is absolutely no reason to change the Sea of Japan – an internationally recognized name – to the East Sea.”

 

RELATED STORY: 19th Century British Map Reveals Early Recognition of Takeshima as Part of Japan

 

(Find access to this article in its original Japanese, here.)

 

Author The Sankei Shimbun