Skip navigation

Countries Information

  1. HOME
  2. Policy Information
  3. Treaties·International Law
  4. East Sea
East Sea

Historical Backgrounds

    • The name "East Sea" has been used in Korea for more than 2000 years as illustrated in various reference such as "History of the Three Kingdoms(三國史記)", the monument of King Gwanggaeto, and "Map of Eight Provinces of Korea(八道總圖)."
    • The name "Sea of Japan", however, was first used by Mateo Ricci in 1602 and various historical records show that the Japanese themselves did not refer to the sea area as the "Sea of Japan" for a long time. Japan insists that the name "Sea of Japan" came into widespread use in the 19th century by stating that the old western maps showed an increased use of the name "Sea of Japan" throughout the 19th century. However, numerous Japanese maps at that time such as "Simplified Map of Japan's Periphery(日本邊界略圖, 1809)" and "New World Map(新製輿地全圖, 1844)" referred to the sea area as the "Sea of Joseon(Korea)," and this demonstrates that the name "Sea of Japan" had not been established even in Japan then.
    • With the rise of Japan as a strong power in Asia in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, when world maps were being drawn similarly to current ones in earnest, the sea area between the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago became widely known as the "Sea of Japan." Usage of the name "Sea of Japan" further increased while Korea did not have the opportunity to claim the legitimacy of the name "East Sea" to the international community during its Japanese colonization period, particularly when the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) published its first edition of the "Limits of Oceans and Seas" in 1929, a major source of reference for the names and borders of waters around the world. Moreover, when its second edition was published in 1937 and the third edition in 1953, Korea continued to remain under the Japanese rule and was also in the middle of the Korean War respectively.
    • After the war had ended and with the restoration of its administration, Korea had steadfastly exerted vigorous efforts to regain the legitimacy of the name "East Sea." For instance, during the process of negotiations between Korea and Japan on the Fisheries Agreement in 1965, the two countries, unable to reach an agreement on the name of the sea area, agreed to maintain their respective names in each of their texts of the Agreement - that is, "East Sea" in the Korean version and "Sea of Japan" in the Japanese version. The private sector in Korea had also continuously endeavored to restore the name "East Sea" on world maps. Against the backdrop, the Korean government officially raised the issue at the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names immediately following its admission to the United Nations as a full member in 1991.

Practices and Resolutions for the Concurrent Use

    • Lying between Korea and Japan and extending north toward Russia, the sea area in question includes the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones(EEZs) of the countries encircling the area. In other words, several countries share jurisdiction and sovereign rights over the sea area. Furthermore, the Sea area falls within the definition of a "semi-enclosed sea" as set out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.("Semi-enclosed sea": a gulf, basin or sea surrounded by two or more States and connected to another sea or the ocean by a narrow outlet or consisting entirely or primarily of the territorial seas and exclusive economic zones of the two or more coastal States)
    • When two or more countries share a geographical feature, its designation is generally standardized through consultations among the countries concerned. If the effort to standardize it fails, however, the names used by each of the countries are used concurrently. This general rule of international cartography is also confirmed in the International Hydrographic Organization Technical Resolution A4.2.6. adopted in 1974 and the United Nations Resolution in the Standardization of Geographical Names Ⅲ/20 adopted in 1977.
      Resolutions
      • International Hydrographic Organization Technical Resolution A4.2.6 International Standardization of Geographical Names(1974) It is recommended that when two or more countries share a given geographical feature(such as, for example, a bay, strait, channel or archipelago) under a different name form, they should endeavour to reach agreement on fixing a single name for the feature concerned. If they have different official languages and cannot agree on a common name form, it is recommended that the name forms of each of the languages in question should be accepted for charts and publications unless technical reasons prevent this practice on small scale charts. e.g. English Channel/La Manche.
      • United Nations Resolution on the Standardization of Geographical Names Ⅲ/20 Names of features beyond a single sovereignty(1977) The Conference, Considering the need for international standardization of names of geographical features that are under the sovereignty of more than one country or are divided among two or more countries,
        1. 01. Recommends that countries sharing a given geographical feature under different names should endeavor, as far as possible, to reach agreement on fixing a single name for the feature concerned;
        2. 02. Further recommends that when countries sharing a given geographical feature do not succeed in agreeing on a common name, it should be a general rule of international cartography that the name used by each of the countries concerned will be accepted. A policy of accepting only one or some of such names while excluding the rest would be inconsistent in principle as well as inexpedient in practice. Only technical reasons may sometimes make it necessary, especially in the case of small-scale maps, to dispense with the use of certain names belonging to one language or another.
    • In accordance with these cartographic rules and resolutions, Korea has made continuous efforts to seek a mutually agreeable solution through bilateral consultations with Japan. However, no meaningful discussions has been conducted to date only to result in a constant deadlock. Therefore, under these circumstances, Korea is of the view that both "East Sea" and "Sea of Japan" should be used concurrently following the established general rule of international cartography.

Increasing International Support for the Legitimacy of the name "East Sea"

    • Korea's continuous efforts have led to an increasing number of media, cartographers and publishers around the world using both names in question, that is, the "East Sea" and the "Sea of Japan.
    • Studies carried out by Japan and Korea respectively show that maps using both names concurrently are on the rise, increasing from 2.8 percent in 2000 1) to 10.8 percent (18.1 percent in the case of commercial maps) in 2005 2) followed by 23.8 percent in 2007 3) and then to 28.07 percent in 2009 4).
      1. 1) Ministry of Foreign Affairs of , 2002, " Sea of Japan "(booklet)
      2. 2) Ministry of Foreign Affairs of , 2006, "A Historical Overview of the Name " Sea of Japan "(booklet)
      3. 3) Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea , 2007(survey)
      4. 4) Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea , 2009(survey)
    • As such, the steady increase in the use of both names by many internationally recognized cartographers and the media clearly indicates a growing awareness and understanding of the legitimacy of the name "East Sea" within the international community.

Japan's False Argument

    • Japan has continuously put forward a false argument that the name "Sea of Japan" has been authorized by the United Nations. However, it is the United Nations Secretariat, not the United Nations itself, that uses the name "Sea of Japan." This is merely a practice of convenience which is not relevant to the opinions of the 193 Member States of the United Nations.
    • The UN Secretariat uses the name "Sea of Japan" in accordance with a practice to use the most widespread and generally recognized denomination in the absence of an internationally agreed standard. However, the UN Secretariat has clarified that the Secretariat's use of the term Sea of Japan" does not constitute an official position of the UN but rather a practice of the Secretariat. Furthermore, it emphasized that the practice should not be interpreted as advocating or endorsing any party's position, and can in no way be invoked by any party in support of a particular position on the matter.
    • Therefore, Japan's argument is obviously a misleading interpretation of the UN Secretariat's practice and is clearly false.

Download

  • East Sea Issues Video Clip ("East Sea, the oldest name for this sea")

    • Korean (한국어) View
    • English View
    • French (Français) View
    • German (Deutsch) View
    • Japanese (日本語) View
    • Russian (Русски) View
    • Spanish (Español) View
  • East Sea Issues Video Clip ("The East Sea, not the Sea of Japan", Source : Northeast Asian History Foundation)

    • Korean (한국어) View
    • English View
    • Arabic (عربي) View
    • Chinese (中文) View
    • French (Français) View
    • German (Deutsch) View
    • Russian (Русски) View
    • Spanish (Español) View
  • East Sea (Pamphlet)

  • East Sea in World Maps

    • East Sea in World Maps (Source: Northeast Asian History Foundation) Download
  • Online Maps