Geography Education
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What is in a Name?

What is in a Name? | Geography Education |
Issues in Focus East Sea...


Does it matter if I call the sea to the east of the Korean Peninsula the "East Sea" and if you call the body of water the west of Japan the "Sea of Japan?"  Absolutely.  When dealing with matters of diplomacy, a name reflects how a country is viewed.  For many years the Sea of Japan has been the defacto name internationally and South Korean officials have lobbied (quite successfully) to bolster the legitimacy of the name within the media, publishers and cartographers.  What other places have multiple names?  What are the political overtones to the name distinctions?  To watch a 10-minute video on the history of the name, see:  

Don Brown Jr's comment, July 3, 2012 8:19 PM
This issue seemed to be largely overshadowed by China’s claims in the Philippines. While changing the name of the Sea of Japan may have no immediate tangible impact on either country, it will certainly have a symbolic one and could possible pave the way for a claim to exclusive water rights within the area in the future. If a valuable resource such as oil is discovered in this disputed area then perhaps Russia, China or even the US will also get involved?
Seth Dixon's comment, July 5, 2012 9:55 AM
Symbolic value is South Korea's main aim, to minimize Japan's (their former colonizer) dominance in the region.
Lamar Ewing White III's comment, August 23, 2012 5:20 PM
Of course it matters whether you call it the East Sea opposed to calling it the Sea of Japan, just like it matters if you call the Mississippi River the Central River or something lame like that. I feel like Japanese citizens would take much offense if someone tried to change the sea's name. It is traced back to Japanese history and heritage which kind of gives them the right to have it named after them. I use the Mississippi River as a comparison because it also traces history and heritage and has every right to be named after the state. Also, (and this might be off subject), if we changed the name of Sea of Japan it would probably take a generation to get the name remembered as "East Sea". It would only create confusion just like if we changed the name of the Mississippi.
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