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Yun Do Ung

Student Leader , Anderson Junior College


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A new insight into the East Sea/Sea of Japan conflict

The Virginia State recently passed what is known as the East Sea bill and I could not be more disappointed. I was expecting the wisdom of the Americans to enable the two countries to resolve the conflict but instead it has worsened the situation. Writing the two names together will not solve the problem. We must realize that both names cannot be justified to represent the sea now in jeopardy.

For many of you out there who may not be aware of the ongoing conflict, Please refer to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Japan_naming_dispute

The problem in a nutshell is this. About a decade ago, Japan claimed that the sea that was originally named as 'East Sea' should be named as 'Sea of Japan'. This enraged South Koreans as the sea both historically and officially belonged to both Korea and Japan. Many Koreans saw this move as a sign of Japan's lack of repentance for its atrocities during the second World War.

So then, is naming the sea East Sea the justice done to both countries? I beg to disagree. Perhaps due to such an intense emotional stir that this has caused among Koreans, only a few bother to realize that the name East Sea is also very unfair to Japanese. Imagine that the East Sea has become the official name of the sea and now all the Japanese schools have to teach their children to call what they would perceive as West sea as East instead. If you cannot picture it clearly, just look at the map and put yourself in the shoes of Japanese.

In conclusion, both names are not appropriate for naming this sea. We need a radical new idea to call this sea differently. I have a few ideas in mind, for instance Blue Sea as how it was called in the past or Sea of Peace as I want the sea to exemplify how peace can be built through understanding and consideration.

The problem is communication. I need the help of TED community to spread this idea and enlighten the people of both countries to see beyond the walls of resentment. Thanks a lot.

  • Feb 21 2014: The problem isn't communication, its nationalist fervor. Lack of communication is just a symptom. Otherwise, someone would have just handed them a radio long ago.
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    Feb 22 2014: who has the ultimate authority to determine the name of a sea? The United Nations?
  • Feb 21 2014: It has been known as "Sea of Japan" for nearly 200 years among English-speakers. Why lie about this? The name "Sea of Japan" did not start being used a mere decade ago.
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      Feb 22 2014: Well, thanks for the correction of my mistake. However, I think what we should look at is not how long the name has been used in Western historical records. Rather, we both Koreans and Japanese are aware of the sea's historical and cultural importance. I just do not think that it should be named as Sea of Japan to suggest it's mere ownership to Japan. I must tell you that I was not lying and it would be indeed true that the sea was called Sea of Japan a long time ago since Japan was very famous to the Western Hemisphere during Industrial Age for its porcelain and art. But then again, should that be the only yardstick to decide the name of the sea shared both by Korea and Japan ?
  • Feb 21 2014: I absolutely agree with the notion that a third name should be assigned. To ensure the most neutrality, I believe the two countries should create a list of proposed names, each nation having half of the proposal. Then have a neutral but knowledgeable third party eliminate all names that have the potential to offend either counry. Also, to avoid as much bias as possible, a third party should be chosen to pick the name.
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    Feb 21 2014: Considering its west of Japan and there is already an “East China Sea”, “East Sea” definitely is not the best name. I personally can’t help spreading this idea, so I’ll just add a little thought.

    To add to your list of possible names, “Pearl Sea”I think would be fitting.
    I was going to recommend White Sea because all four counties have white in their flags and thus unifying name. But that did not sound great, so the famous Pearls of the East Sea/Sea of Japan represent the white of the flags.
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    Feb 21 2014: why would japan be unrepentant for its atrocities done during world war two?
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      Feb 22 2014: If you compare between Germany and Japan, it would be clear to you that Japan has been unsatisfactorily repentant. I must admit that they did apologize for what they have done. But often they change their stance on those issues and in their culture and education it is evident that they are trying to glorify the past. Many a times they changed their textbook, justifying their cause for the invasions. It is almost equivalent to Germany changing their textbook to state that their use of eugenics and Nazi concentration camps were justified.