The Historical precedent for the "East
In most world
maps and atlases used internationally today,
Korea's "East Sea" is indicated as the "Sea of
Japan," and therefore an immediate correction is
warranted. To this end, it is necessary to review
the historical background of the term "East Sea"
and how Korea's East Sea has been recognized by
neighboring countries and other western countries
in the past. Also, to prepare a strategy to change
the name "Sea of Japan" back to "East Sea'" it is
necessary to review the process of how the "East
Sea" was unjustifiably turned into the "Sea of
Japan" in the 20th century.
Name of "East Sea" in
Korean Writings and Ancient Maps
Historically, Korea has used the term, "East Sea" in
writings since 59 B.C. Examples can be found in numerous
records including the Monument of King Kwanggaeto (411),
the Samguk sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms, 1145)
and the Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms,
1284). Moreover, the still extant "Atlas of Eight
Provinces" in the Shinjong tongguk yoji sungnam (A
revised edition of the Augmented Survey of the Geography
of Korea, 1530) uses the term "East Sea." In addition, a
16th century Tongguk chido (Map of Korea) uses the term
"Tong cho taehae" (Great Sea of the Lower East). A map
of Yongnam (the southeastern region of the peninsula)
which was made in the 1740's and a map of Korea which
was officially created in the mid-18th century also used
the name, "East Sea." Hence there is much evidence that
"East Sea" has been used for centuries.
to the "East Sea" was also constant in numerous maps
created after the 18th century. Many geography textbooks
published and used before the annexation of Korea by
Japan in the early 20th century made reference to the
"East Sea," "Sea of Choson" or "Sea of Korea." However,
already by the early 20th century, there were some
textbooks which made reference to the "Sea of Japan."
Every textbook published after 1910 refers to the East
Sea as the "Sea of Japan."
Russia, and Japan's Use of "East Sea"
to Chinese sources, China has known of the "East Sea"
since the Tang Dynasty; however, they called it just
"Sea" or "Great Sea." With the establishment in 698 of
the Kingdom of Parhae by Koreans, the Chinese began
calling the East Sea the "Sea of Parhae." China used the
term, "East Sea," during the Liao Dynasty (947-1125),
the Sung Dynasty (960-1279), the Chin Dynasty (1122-
1234), the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Ming Dynasty
(1368-1644), and the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty (1644-1912).
At times during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, the Chinese
referred to the East Sea as "Ching Hai" which means "Sea
of Whales" because there were a lot of whales found
there. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Chinese
referred to the northeastern area of the East Sea as
"East Sea" and the southern area as the "South Sea."
Around 1884 during the Qing Dynasty, some scholars and
bureaucrats occasionally used the term "Sea of Japan" in
some documents. However, the Russia-Japan Treaty of 1905
was the first documented use of the term "Sea of Japan"
at a government level.
"Kunyuwanguoditu" is a map printed in Beijing in 1602.
It was a translation into Chinese of a world map kept by
a Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci and it refers to the East
Sea as the "Sea of Japan." It is the oldest surviving
Chinese map known to use the term "Sea of Japan."
However, this map does not have much significance
because it was a translation of a map made by a
foreigner living in China. In addition, it is believed
that the production of the map was influenced by
information obtained from Japan rather than from Korea.
This map did not have much impact on subsequent Chinese
maps. The next time the term "Sea of Japan" appeared on
a Chinese map was about 1875.
maps of East Asia were all created after 1639 when
Russians first arrived in the Pacific coast region. In
1687, Nic Witzen's "Noord en Oost Tartarye" refers to
the East Sea as "Oceanus Orientalis." N. Goman's 1725
map uses the term "Eastern Ocean," and in a 1734 map, I.
Kirilov refers to the East Sea as "Vostochnoe," meaning
"east sea." The Map of Asia printed by the renown
Petersbourg Academy of Sciences in 1745 also refers to
the East Sea as "Koreiskoe Mope," or "Sea of Korea."
Other famous maps printed in Russia from 1745 to 1791
use the term "Sea of Korea." Adam Johann von Krusenstern
(1770-1846), the Russian who explored the East Sea
called it the "Sea of Japan" as did the French explorer,
La Perouse (1741-c. 1788), who explored the East Sea in
1787. However, the Russians called the East Sea the "Sea
of Korea" in their last officially published map of
1844. Thereafter, it appears that the Russian Navy and
numerous maps followed the European style in making
"Sea of Japan" was used after the 18th century in many
prestigious maps made in Japan. Until 1870, even
Japanese maps referred to East Sea as the "Sea of
Choson." All of the following maps refer to the East Sea
as the "Sea of Choson:" Takahasi Kageyasu's 1810
"Sinteibankokuzenzu," Abe Kinin's 1838 "Bankokuzenzu,"
Sugita Gendan's 1850 "Chigakuseisozu," Matsuda Rokuzan's
1855 "Chikyubankokuzenzu," and the 1870
all maps published in Japan thereafter refer to the East
Sea as the "Sea of Japan." From this, it can be inferred
that the Japanese government directed, as a matter of
policy, that the name "Sea of Japan" be used.
Especially, geographical references and names were
changed in Matsuda Rokuzan's 1854 map and his
"Bankokuzenzu" of 1871. Hasimoto Chyozuki's 1871
"Sinseiyochizenzu" calls the East Sea the "Sea of
Japan." From this, we can assume that changes were being
made at about this time, because the term "East Sea" was
not found in any of the Japanese maps published after
1871. Also, at about this time, references to the "Sea
of Japan" began appearing in Chinese maps as well.
"East Sea" in Ancient Western Maps
which was created by Godhino de Eredia of Portugal in
1615 was the first map published in Europe to have
called the East Sea as "Mar Coria" (Sea of Korea).
Moreover, the East Sea is called "Mare di Corai" (Sea of
Korea) in Sir Robert Dudley's 1647 "Carta Particolare
della Isola de Giapone" which was made in England. The
Map of Asia which appears in E. Bowen's World Atlas in
1744 and 1752 also refers to the East Sea as the "Sea of
Korea." The Map of the North Pacific published by J.N.
Delise of France in 1750 after his exploration of
Northeast Asia also calls the East Sea "Mer De Coree."
Furthermore, "Sea of Korea" appears in the first edition
of the 1771 Encyclopedia Britannica.
All of the
aforementioned maps prove that the East Sea was widely
known as the "Sea of Korea" during the 17th and 18th
since the East Sea was referred to as the "Sea of Japan"
in La Perouse's map of 1797, maps produced thereafter in
Europe began to use the term "Sea of Japan" with greater
frequency. However, both "Sea of Korea" and "Sea of
Japan" co-existed until the first half of the 19th
century. It is difficult to find out how "Sea of Japan"
replaced "Sea of Korea" in the later half of the 19th
century because a review of all existing ancient maps
has not been completed. However, it is believed that
such a replacement was a reflection of the easier
availability of information about Japan than Korea as
Japan's military power had expanded and the recognition
of Japan had increased in the international community.
"Sea of Japan" Made Official by International
Hydrographic Organization in 1929
early 20th century while Korea was under the colonial
rule of Japan, the name East Sea was eradicated from the
maps of world. The eradication of references to the East
Sea started when a resolution was adopted at the first
Conference of the International Hydrographic
Organization t establish the limits of oceans and seas
and attach appropriate local names for safe navigation.
A Japanese delegation attended this conference, but
there was no Korean delegation. According to the
resolution, the East Sea was registered by Japan as the
"Sea of Japan" in 1923. No other member country raised
any objection. Consequently, the 1929 Monaco Conference
adopted a resolution to publish Special Publication
No.23 entitled The Limits of Oceans and Seas, which was
based on data collected previously, and to make this
publication an internationally accepted document.
Thereafter, the mapmakers of the world used the
standardized names of places based on this publication
and the name "East Sea" lost its place on world maps.
New editions of The Limits of Oceans and Seas were
published in 1937, 1952, and 1986 and to date, the East
Sea remains as the "Sea of Japan."
Koreans to Reclaim East Sea on World Maps
Historically speaking, the East Sea has been used for a
long time not only in Korea but also in neighboring
countries such as China, Russia, and Japan, as well as
in Europe. That is, the "East Sea" was the established
name of the sea just as the "North Sea" is in Europe,
rather than being a mere reference about direction.
Moreover, it would not be appropriate to allow the term
"Sea of Japan" to continue to be used. Think, for
example, of the Mediterranean Sea which is surrounded by
documents written since the early 1970s, many citizens
and scholars have pointed out the unreasonableness of
naming the East Sea the "Sea of Japan." Shortly after
joining the United Nations, during the 1992 Sixth U.N.
Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names,
the Korean Government requested that this incorrect
usage be corrected. At that time, the U.N. advised Korea
to consult relevant countries. Of course, Japan opposed
any change in the name. Thereafter, at the 1994 New York
and 1996 Geneva Meetings of the U.N. Group of Experts on
Geographical Names, Korea made public the
unreasonableness of using the name "Sea of Japan." In
April 1997, Korea requested that "Sea of Japan" be
changed to "East Sea" in The Limits of Oceans and Seas
at the 15th International Hydrographic Conference held
in Monaco. Consequently, it is expected that the 1999
edition of The Limits of Oceans and Seas will reflect
addition, the Korean Government continues to contact
renowned map publishers, broadcasting companies,
newspaper companies and magazine publishers throughout
the world and to request that they use the name "East
Sea" in lieu of "Sea of Japan." Rand McNally, a U.S. map
company, has started to use both "East Sea" and "Sea of
Japan" in its most recently published maps.