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."
The exhibition by the U.S. government commemorates the 60th anniversary of the armistice that halted the war and is expected to draw 100,000 visitors a year.
But a Chosun Ilbo reporter spotted 10 exhibits including six large maps that label the body of water as "Sea of Japan" but not one that used the preferred Korean name "East Sea."
The government and activists here have gone to some length to persuade international bodies to use both names because "Sea of Japan" reminds them of colonial times, but the U.S. officially still uses only the old name.
However, critics are saying that Washington could have taken steps to address the Sea of Japan reference if Seoul had made its position on the matter clear. For instance, the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia at the request of the Korean government changed the name to "East Sea" on maps in its own Korean War exhibition.
A Pentagon official involved in organizing the exhibition said geographical names in its exhibits are based on "official notations" used by the U.S. government and added that there were no objections from Seoul when the show was being prepared.
Dozens of Korean government officials attended the opening on June 18, including Seoul's ambassador to Washington Ahn Ho-young, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Chung Seung-jo and National Assembly Policy Committee Chairman Kim Jung-hoon.
It appears that officials in both Seoul and Washington forgot to look at the details since they were so focused on the exhibition itself, which is meant to raise awareness of a now frequently forgotten war.
Peter Kim, who heads a Korean-American group seeking to establish the name "East Sea" in U.S. textbooks, said people like him are fighting "a long, hard battle" and blamed Korean and U.S. officials of paying no attention to their efforts. Kim said it is "very discouraging" to see maps showing only the name "Sea of Japan" in a Pentagon exhibition that will be seen by scores of people interested in Korean history.