IHO Puts Off East Sea Decision Until 2017

The general assembly of the International Hydrographic Organization came to an end in Monaco on Thursday without agreement on the name for the body of water between Korea and Japan. Instead officials postponed until 2017 the decision whether the Korean name "East Sea" is to be used alongside "Sea of Japan."

The IHO decided to delay publication of a new edition of "Limits of Oceans and Seas," the standard reference for map production.

◆ No Agreement

IHO officials discussed the new edition of "Limits of Oceans and Seas" but halted talks because they could not agree on the use of the name "East Sea." The IHO does not hold its next general assembly until 2017.

Japan insisted on keeping "Sea of Japan" as the sole name, but all other members rejected the idea of publishing the new edition that way or abstained.

"As the result of the vote, it became virtually impossible to publish a revised version," said Paik Ji-ah, Korea's chief delegate to the meeting. The last edition of "Limits of Oceans and Seas" was published 59 years ago and "is disappearing into the pages of history," Paik said. "We will seek to expand the use of 'East Sea' around the world with the cooperation of non-governmental groups and map makers overseas."

Some IHO members cast doubt on the usefulness of "Limits of Oceans and Seas" as a global reference for maps in these circumstances. Chinese delegates said it should be scrapped.

The U.K.s chief delegate (left) listens to a Korean delegates explanation of an electronic map created by the Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Administration, which contains only the name The U.K.'s chief delegate (left) listens to a Korean delegate's explanation of an electronic map created by the Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Administration, which contains only the name "East Sea" to refer to the body of water between Korea and Japan, at the IHO meeting hall on Thursday.

◆ Support from N.Korea

"Limits of Oceans and Seas" has been revised twice since it was first published in 1929. The final revision was made in 1953, but all editions have used only "Sea of Japan." At that time, South Korea had suffered decades of occupation by Japan and the Korean War and was in no position to push its stance on the inclusion of the name "East Sea."

Seoul began voicing its position after becoming a UN member in 1992 that Koreans have been referring to the body of water as the "East Sea" for more than 2,000 years, and the names should at least be used jointly. But Japan refuses to budge.

The North Korean delegation to the IHO sided with South Korea and supported the use of "East Sea." A North Korean official at the General Assembly criticized Japan, saying that the sole use of "Sea of Japan" is a "criminal act."

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 27, 2012 09:21 KST