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What's in a Name?

What's in a Name? | Geography Education | Scoop.it

The Pentagon has upset patriots by labeling the body of water between Korea and Japan in an exhibition depicting various battles fought during the 1950-53 Korean War as "Sea of Japan" rather than "East Sea."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Earlier this week I posted on whether a group of islands off the coast of Argentina should be called the Falkland Islands or Las Malvinas.  There is some geopolitical significance to which name you ascribe to particular places.  Does it matter if I call the sea to the east of the Korean Peninsula the "East Sea" and if someone else refers to this same body of water west of Japan the "Sea of Japan?"  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 and other governments.  Last summer, a worker in the South Korean government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that I share some resources that state South Korea's position(see also this 10 minute video), showing their commitment to this rebranding effort.  Also see this GeoCurrents article on the subject in 2012, after South Korea's failed attempt to get international recognition.


Questions to Ponder: What other places have multiple names?  What are the political overtones to the name distinctions? What are other tricky places on the map where distinct groups would label/draw things differently?  Is the map an 'unbiased' source of information? 


Tags: language, toponyms, South Korea, historical, colonialism, cartography.

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Justin McCullough's curator insight, October 17, 2013 10:16 AM

I agree with Peter Kim and others that are fighting to have the name changed to the East Sea. The term "Sea of Japan" was used in colonial times of South Korea. Now that those times are long gone, it I can understand why South Korea would want to get rid of anything related to that time period. This actually reminds of something that I'm going over in my colonial history class; the Pueblo Revolt (1680). During this time Indians revolted against the Spanish colonizers oppressing them and taking away their traditions, forcibly converting them to Christianity. During their revolt the Indians destroyed many of the Spanish institutions, especially those related to religion. They destroyed churches and even defaced the statues of the saints, and returned to their traditional practices.

This article also reminded of Sri Lanka changing the its colonial name on Government institutions from Ceylon to Sri Lanka. This happened not to long ago. The Island's colonial name (Ceylon) was dropped when they became their own country in 1972. However, the name Ceylon remained on many of the Government institutions (e.g. Bank of Ceylon or Ceylon Fisheries Corporation). However, in 2010 the name was dropped for good.  

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