US: Full-page newspaper ad promotes East Sea over Sea of Japan

South Korean activists buy full-page advertisement in 'Washington Post' to promote use of the Korean name for the sea between Korea and Japan in prominent U.S. newspapers

The Korea Herald
Thursday, August 13, 2009

A full-page advertisement appeared in The Washington Post Wednesday to promote the name of East Sea to describe the waters between Korea and Japan, commonly called the Sea of Japan, Yonhap News reported.

"There is no Sea of Japan in the world," said the ad, sponsored by a group of South Korean activists angry at the newspaper's use of Sea of Japan in its article, "In North Korea, Missiles Herald A Defiant 4th," dated July 5. "It only exists in the thinking of the Japanese government in its attempts to distort history."

The ad coincides with the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, which falls on Saturday.

The ad expressed regret that the article had "a small but significant error," saying, "This body of water has been referred to as the East Sea by many nations over the past 2,000 years."

The Korean government has been lobbying foreign governments and various international organizations to adopt the name East Sea. Some have begun to use the Korean version concurrently with the Sea of Japan in their publications in recent years.

Major U.S. newspapers, however, appear to be an exception.

"We decided to run the ad as we could not find any article of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post that used the words East Sea (as an alternative to the Sea of Japan) for the past 10 years," said Seo Kyoung-duk, visiting professor of Sungshin Women's University in Seoul. "We want to correct the errors in those newspapers."

Seo, who has sponsored several ads in major newspapers abroad in years past to promote the Korean names for the sea and the rocky islets there, said that the ad was funded by Korean pop singer Kim Chang-hoon and a volunteer group.

Similar ads will soon appear on CNN and a Times Square ad signboard in New York, he said.

The ad also promoted the Korean name of Dokdo for the isles, as opposed to Takeshima in Japanese.

"The island Dokdo, which lies in the East Sea, has also been recognized as genuine Korean territory," it said. "This is the truth and an indisputable fact throughout history."

Dokdo has long posed a headache for the U.S. as it is at the heart of the tense national rivalry between the two major allies of the U.S. in the strategically important Northeast Asia region.

The U.S. Board of Geographical Names infuriated Koreans last summer when it briefly recategorized Dokdo as being of "undesignated sovereignty" in its database, a shift from the islets' original designation as being controlled by South Korea.