South Korean delegates attending the general meeting of International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) are stepping up diplomatic efforts to add the name “East Sea” to the body of water separating Japan from Korea. The IHO is an intergovernmental body in charge of naming oceans and seas. Currently, the IHO’s sea map refers to the waters only as the “Sea of Japan.”
A foreign ministry official said no agreement was reached on the contentious issue on the first day of the meeting.
The five-day meeting, held every five years, kicked off on Monday in Monaco with the attendance of more than 300 delegates from around 80 member states. They plan to have another round of discussions today to finalize the issue.
For the adoption of a new name, countries that are concerned and other member states need to come up with a consensus. In this case, the new name can be adopted without going through voting. However, if any of the member states disagrees with the proposal it needs to be put to a vote during the IHO meeting. According to sources, the majority of member nations prefer the two countries to find a common solution without going through voting.
The IHO will revisit its document titled “Limits of Oceans and Seas,” also known as S-23. It has not been updated since the release of the third addition in 1953. The oceanographic chart, though not binding, standardizes oceanic boundaries and names over the world.
Against the backdrop, South Korea sent a delegation of 16 government officials and experts led by Paik Ji-ah, director-general for international organizations at the foreign ministry, to the crucial sea-naming meeting.
“We will try our utmost for the use of both names in the upcoming version of the document, and at the same time, prevent the single use of the name Sea of Japan,” said Paik, Tuesday. South Korea has locked horns with Japan for decades concerning the name of the water the former calls the “East Sea.” Seoul claims the original name “Sea of Korea” was changed after Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945. Japan registered the name Sea of Japan with the IHO in 1929 during the release of the first edition.
Seoul also insists that the second and third editions, published in 1937 and 1953 respectively, marked the same name “Sea of Japan” as Korea was unable to reflect its voice to the colonial situation and the 1950-53 Korean War. It raised an objection to the single use of the name for the first time in 1992 and since then has campaigned for the adoption of the “East Sea” for the waters.
In previous IHO meetings, Seoul’s efforts on changing the name failed as Japan called for the organization to stick with the current name.
Cause nothing is more important than the name of a freaking sea... like, idk, reforming the current criminal system