Efforts of the Government of Japan in Response to the Issue of the Name of the Sea of Japan
Concerning the issue of the name of the Sea of Japan, the following represents an overview of the recent efforts of the Government of Japan.
1. Efforts in the United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names (UNCSGN) and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)
(1) The 8th UNCSGN
UNCSGN is an international conference that discusses the standardization of geographical names, the definition of terms and methods of nomenclature from technical perspectives. The conference has been convened once every five years since 1967.
The 8th UNCSGN was held in Berlin from 27 August to 5 September 2002. In its Committee III, the delegates from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and North Korea requested that names "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" should be simultaneously used as an interim measure (North Korea also proposed the name "East Sea of Korea" to be used), contending the Sea of Japan has been given various names in the history (Note 1). The Japanese delegation (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Geographical Survey Institute) stated their position that this conference in principle is not an appropriate forum to discuss the naming of individual geographical features. They explained that the historical facts concerning the name of the Sea of Japan were different from what was claimed by the ROK and North Korea, further concluding that the term "Sea of Japan" is an internationally established name. As a result, the proposition by the ROK and North Korea was not addressed. It was reached at the conference that efforts should be made to find a solution acceptable to all countries concerned. The Chair's summary states, "Individual countries cannot impose specific names on the international community and standardization can only be promoted when a consensus exists."
(Note 1) The ROK and North Korea raised the issue of the name of the Sea of Japan, for the first time in an international forum, on the occasion of the 6th UNCSGN of 1992, to which Japan objected. The similar debate took place on the occasion of the 7th UNCSGN of 1998.
(2) International Hydrographic Organization (IHO)
The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) was initially established as the International Hydrographic Bureau in 1921. Reinstituted in 1967 as an intergovernmental organization based on the Convention on the International Hydrographic Organization, the IHO has ever since been engaged in various activities to contribute to making navigation easier and safer, including those promoting uniformity in nautical charts and documents. Currently, the organization has 80 member countries and regions, including the ROK and North Korea.
One of the IHO activities is to publish a document known as the "Limits of Oceans and Seas", which records the designations and boundaries of oceans and seas in the world. The current version of the document, though published back in 1953, uses the designation "Japan Sea", and efforts have been made to revise the publication intermittently since 1977. Although the ROK, which was admitted to the IHO in 1957, formally agreed to the use of the designation "Japan Sea" for a revised draft text of the publication worked out in 1986, they first spoke against the use of such designation along the lines of what is described in paragraph (1) above, at the 15th International Hydrographic Conference in 1997. Subsequently, the ROK has persistently called on the IHO to change the single designation "Japan Sea" for its new publication. The Government of Japan has been consistently in opposition to the ROK's argument as having no ground for any change in the naming. However, in August 2002 the IHO Directing Committee abruptly distributed to its member Governments a final draft copy of its revised publication "Limits of Oceans and Seas" which did not contain any pages for the body of water in question and resorted to a decision on the proposed publication through mail voting, claiming that no agreement is in sight over the issue of naming of "Japan Sea".
The Government of Japan immediately lodged a protest against such unilateral action by the IHO Committee which, in its view, could amount to an arbitrary cancellation of the established designation of the body of water by supposedly a neutral international organization, which in fact accepted a partial argument advanced only by a fraction of the member countries. The Government also continued all possible efforts to make the legitimacy of the established designation of the body of water well understood by both diplomatic and hydrographic authorities of all other member Governments of the IHO. As a result, a considerable number of member Governments came to support the position of the Japanese Government, and the IHO Directing Committee decided in September 2003 to withdraw the final draft of the revised publication from voting. While a work plan for the future revision of the IHO publication remains undecided, the Government of Japan will continue to work with the Directing Committee and all other member Governments to ensure that the use of the single designation of "Japan Sea" be maintained for any future publication of the Organization. Refer to the Issue of the Name "Sea of Japan" at the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).
2. Consultations between Japan and the ROK Concerning the Issue of the Name of the Sea of Japan
With regard to this issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged in consultations on a number of occasions with diplomatic authorities of the ROK to date, and has repeatedly explained the position of Japan. However, the ROK has merely repeated its own proposition and has not shown a sign of dialogue that would lead to a solution of the issue. Japan proposed that the issue be included on the agenda of the Japan-Korea Hydrographic Technical Meeting, planned to be held in December 2002 between the Japan Coast Guard and the ROK Hydrographic Organization. However, the meeting itself was postponed because the ROK insisted a Japanese compromise to be a precondition.
The Government of Japan recognizes that it is necessary to continue to argue that there is no ground for the proposition taken by the ROK, considering technical and objective facts, Japan will continue to take this position in working on the ROK.
3. Public Activities and Studies Concerning the Issue of the Name of the Sea of Japan
(1) Publicity generated through the press pamphlet
In order to explain the legitimacy of Japan's position, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published English language pamphlets in August 2002, based on the research results by Japanese academics on surveys of maps from various countries around the world, as well as historical background of the name of the "Sea of Japan." Through distribution of the pamphlets at various international conferences, including aforementioned the 8th UNCSGN, and to diplomatic authorities, map companies and international media via Japanese Embassies and Consulates General, Japan has gained understanding for its proposition from many parties. The Japan Coast Guard also has distributed the pamphlets to all IHO member hydrographic organizations. The pamphlet's text has been translated into French, Spanish and Arabic and distributed.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also shared the details of this case with local governments around Japan and has sent English and Japanese versions of the pamphlet to local governments. Articles of various public relations magazines have also been utilized to promote the correct understanding among the Japanese public.
(2) Publicity via the MOFA website
The content of the English pamphlet was uploaded onto the MOFA website ( Japanese and English versions) at the end of August 2002 and has been open to the public. The Korean version has also been uploaded onto the Japanese embassy website in the ROK, which informs the Korean people of the legitimacy of the single notation of the name "Sea of Japan."
The Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department of the Japan Coast Guard is also publicizing the pamphlet on their website.
(3) Study on the status of notation in maps available for purchase by anyone
From August to October 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted a survey through its diplomatic missions in 60 countries around the world, excluding Japan, the ROK and North Korea, concerning maps that are available for purchase by anyone. The results of the study showed that of 392 maps surveyed, 381 maps (97.2%) used solely the name "Sea of Japan" either in English or its equivalent in the local language, and only 11 maps (2.8%) showed joint notation of the names "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea." There was no map that used only the term "East Sea."
(4) Study on the status of the notation in school textbooks
From September to November 2002, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted a survey through its diplomatic missions in 70 major countries around the world, excluding Japan, the ROK and North Korea, concerning the use of the term "Sea of Japan" in major textbooks and maps in use from primary schools to high schools. The results of the study showed that of the 253 books surveyed, 246 (97.2%) carried the term "Sea of Japan" only. The remaining 7 books used the names "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" jointly and there were no books where the "East Sea" was used in single notation. The publishing companies of the books that used both terms were sent a copy of the Sea of Japan pamphlet by the Japanese diplomatic mission in that particular country and their understanding of Japan's position was requested. Most of these companies have responded that the position of Japan will be considered in revised editions.
4. Response to moves on the ROK side
(1) Approaches to mass media
In the ROK, calls to the mass media and map companies of many countries for the use of the term "East Sea" are being actively carried out not only by the Government, but also at the civil level. In particular, members of the Internet site Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK) have sent numerous e-mails to foreign mass media and corporations requesting the use of the term "East Sea." Under the influence of such activities, there are now examples, although only a few, that newspapers and corporate websites in the United States and France use the names "Sea of Japan and "East Sea" jointly, or deleting the name "Sea of Japan." In finding such an example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly calls for single notation of "Sea of Japan" through our diplomatic missions abroad, and explains the appropriateness of the naming of the Sea of Japan.
Some major examples are as follows.
(A) There were joint notations of "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" in articles related to the 2002 World Cup soccer tournament in May 2002 issues of nationally distributed French newspapers Les Echos and Le Figaro. After requests were made from the Embassy of Japan in France to both newspapers, single notation of the name "Sea of Japan" was confirmed in December 2002.
(B) In January 2003, an ROK newspaper reported that The New York Times had stopped using the name "Sea of Japan." The New York Times used an expression "the body of water between Japan and Korea" in an article by a Seoul correspondent on 26 January. In response, the Consulate General of Japan in New York confirmed the facts to The New York Times, whereupon The New York Times responded that their editorial policy had not changed, and that they do use the term "Sea of Japan."
(C) L'Atlas du Monde diplomatique, a geographical book published by the French newspaper Le Monde diplomatique in January 2003, contained joint notation of the names "Sea of Japan and "East Sea." As a result of an inquiry into the facts, it was found out that the author is a scholar of Korean descent. Thus, the legitimacy of the naming of the Sea of Japan was explained, and a call was made for single notation of the name "Sea of Japan" to the editorial desk of the Le Monde diplomatique.
(D) In November 2002 and in January 2003, the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle made requests to Microsoft Corporation regarding the joint notation in its Encarta Encyclopedia. Microsoft responded that it used "East Sea" as a secondary name, not because it deemed the claims of the Korean side legitimate, but because they considered the actual situation within the Korea, where the term "East Sea" is in use, and confirmed that the primary name is "Sea of Japan." Microsoft also revised the expression in its Japanese edition to a single notation of "Sea of Japan."
(2) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES: the Washington Convention)
At the 12th Conference of the Parties of CITES, held from 3 to 15 November 2002 in the Republic of Chile, the ROK delegation distributed a paper requesting that the "Sea of Japan" in a document submitted by Japan should be accompanied by the name "East Sea," giving a wrong explanation to the secretariat that the joint notation of "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" had already been determined by organizations such as the UNCSGN and the IHO. In response to this, a paper on the secretariat's decision to revise the Japan's paper to add "East Sea" where "Sea of Japan" appeared was issued by the secretariat. This paper was eventually withdrawn, due to the prompt and strong rebuttal by the Japanese delegation.
(3) Requests to airlines
After a survey of the state of notation of the Sea of Japan in in-flight magazines and in-flight video screens of major carriers that operates regular services to Japan and the ROK was conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through diplomatic missions abroad from September 2002 to January 2003, it was found out that requests were made to multiple airlines by Korean Airlines (KAL), as well as passengers of Korean descent, to change the name of the Sea of Japan to the East Sea. Of these carriers, Swissair and Austrian Airlines had been using joint notation of "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" in some of their in-flight magazines. After explanations were given to both airlines through the Japanese diplomatic missions abroad, the expression was changed to the single notation of "Sea of Japan." Some of the Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand aircraft had changed in-flight video screen expressions to "East Sea" and "North East Sea" respectively, but as a result of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' request for single notation of "Sea of Japan," and explanation of the legitimacy of the name "Sea of Japan," Qantas Airways understood the lack of reasonableness of the name "East Sea," and responded that it would quickly restore the name of the Sea of Japan. Requests to Air New Zealand are ongoing.
(4) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) website
In January 2003, a map with joint notation of "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" appeared on the WWAP website (a program wherein related UN institutions jointly tackle water related issues), for which UNESCO plays a role as secretariat. The expression was corrected to the single notation of "Sea of Japan" through a request by a Japanese diplomatic mission abroad.
In January 2003, a map with joint notation of "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" appeared on the website of the Western Pacific Regional Office of WHO. The expression was corrected to the single notation of "Sea of Japan" through a request by the Japanese side. Refer to the Q & A March 2003
(6) Nautical Map Catalog of the Government of France (February 2003)
Joint notation of "Sea of Japan" and "East Sea" was found in several places in the 2003 edition of the Nautical Map Catalog issued by the Government of France in February 2003. Accordingly, the Embassy of Japan in France and the Japan Coast Guard immediately lodged a protest to the Ocean Information Division of the French Navy. The French side responded that it recognizes the legitimacy of the term "Sea of Japan" and that all French nautical maps carry only the term "Sea of Japan." The French side also responded that it did not know why the Nautical Map Catalog included joint notation with "East Sea" and that it would immediately investigate this matter.
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