Monday, February 22, 2010

Protesting Takeshima Day in Seoul.

Some university students and members of "Dokdo Academy" gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Sunday to protest Japan's continued use of "Takeshima" for the name of territory disputed by the two countries in the Sea of Japan. The demonstration came a day before "Takeshima Day," proclaimed in Japan's Shimane Prefecture in 2005. They threw down and tore up materials with the Japanese name:

Brought out foreign languages and bad English:

And demonstrated through performance (1, 2, 3, 4) Japan's renaming of what is considered in South Korea as Korean territory.

You'll have to wait a while before the real festivities start: South Korea's "Dokdo Day" isn't until October 25th.

Dokdo, the Korean name for the Liancourt Rocks, is serious business in South Korea, and it's rarely far from the headlines. Thus it's only slightly accurate to say there's been "renewed" interest in Dokdo lately because new maps have been discovered that, the Korean side says, weaken Japan's claim to the rocks. And whenever Dokdo comes up, the Sea of Japan is never far behind. Koreans believe the name ought to be changed, and a survey from 2008 showed that 95% of Koreans think it ought to be the "East Sea." As I've written dozens of times on this site, the English name of the body of water is the Sea of Japan, and Koreans ought to respect the language, the culture, and the precedent. It's extremely arrogant for Koreans to dictate how other people use their language, especially when the alternatives suggested are so clearly Korea-centric. I'll plagiarize myself a bit, from November 2008:
The name is 동해, or East Sea, in Korean and that's perfectly acceptable. Nobody is suggesting it be called 일본해. However, the accepted English name is Sea of Japan, and it's arrogant and inappropriate to dictate the rules of another language. Moreover, and what realy induces eye rolls and forehead slaps is that people are advocating replacing the Sea of Japan because it supposedly reflects Japanese imperialism and is a product of, so they say, aggressive lobbying by Japanese politicians. The alternate name suggested, though, is even more disgustingly ethnocentric and nationalistic because the sea is, after all, to the immediate east of Korea and only Korea. Here I would write "just call it the East Asian Sea and let's move on," but you see how I view Korea's whining in isolation, and am no longer willing to see the merits of any of its historical claims.
Trying to "correct" English speakers by changing the name, as some have sought to do
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."
is especially unsettling since one of the celebrities leading the charge clearly has no English-language proficiency and is, like most Koreans, not qualified for any position of authority in English. Kim Jang-hoon, a singer who frequently takes out ads in U.S. newspapers about the Liancourt Rocks or the Sea of Japan, wrote on his Cyworld page after an advertisement about Seoul in the Wall Street Journal featured a map with both Sea of Japan and East Sea on it:
Thank you for WSJ

. . .

East Sea/Sea of japan

. . .

정말 눈물이 날만큼 기쁩니다.

. . .

'Truth wins,in thw end'
For the sake of balance, I'll add what Gomushin Girl wrote last year after I asked readers to offer legimate reasons why an alternative name might be acceptable, since Korean objections are often no more sophisticated than "Japan was bad":
While I'm loathe to jump in here, you DID ask for legitimate reasons:
First, the sea is in fact to the east of something; mainly, the majority of Asia, similar to how the North Sea in Europe still manages to be east of some countries and west of others. We don't call it the British Sea even though the British Isles take up a chunk of what borders the sea.
Second, although there is some controversy over exactly when the English name "East Sea" first appeared, certainly it's first appearance in the IHO maps were in fact directly resulting from the colonial state of many of the nations involved.
Of course, maps not being completely standardized, you can make the argument that the Korean case for "East Sea" is weak because there's a plurality of maps of various accuracy with myriad other names. Just because other regional groups share a similar name (it is similarly "East Sea" in Chinese, for example) doesn't make for a perfect case. Of course, this also means that ALL arguments based on maps for naming conventions are suspect, and that Sea of Japan is equally incorrect.
I understand that for many foreigners, hearing and reading these arguments gets tiresome and old, but lets not say that there is no force whatsoever to them.
The Sea of Japan issue is relatively timely, since a KBS article from the 18th showed that only 6% of maps in a large collection identified the body of water as "East Sea" or "Sea of Korea," compared to the 55% that labeled it "Sea of Japan." The naming issue was last timely on my site in the fall, when some high school students reacted to a piece I had in the Joongang Ilbo which in turn was based on a series of posts on my site.


Chris said...

95% eh? So the majority of Koreans think it should be the East Sea?

Who cares what they think, it's the Sea of Japan! Who are they to demand publishers change the maps just because of their history with Japan?

The publishers should just tell them to go to hell. Ok Hermit Kingdom you want a different name for the Sea of Japan than change the name Korea Straight.

Oh, here comes all the bullshit excuses for why that's different in that case and blah, blah, blah.

As for the whole Takeshima thing, only Koreans and a small handful of stupid right-wing Japanese care about that bullshit and that's all it is.

The more they do stupid shit like cutting off their fingers, killing innocent birds etc... the more the world thinks they are wacked out of it.

They are probably playing right into the hands of the Japanese who care.

Get over the Sea of Japan stuff and do something productive instead of trying to force YOUR opinions on the rest of the world. Isn't that what they say Americans try to do to everyone?

This Is Me Posting said...

OH! That English sign is SO CLOSE!

Still, that one little typo doesn't bother me that much. We've all done equivalent or worse.

The French sign's grammar and spelling is 100% correct.

asadalthought said...

I personally agree somewhat with Gomushin Girl regarding the Sea of Japan. There is a case that the name should be different, but I also don't there there is a case that it should be changed, if you see what I mean. Nobody can dictate what its name should be in another language, that's just petty, arrogant and pointless. But then again it's perhaps not the best choice of name in the first place, as it does seem to imply that Japan owns the body of water, which it doesn't. I understand both sides of the argument in this issue.

As for Dokdo, however, that's completely different. There is absolutely no reason for it to keep making the news, and for people to discuss it so much. Korea has de facto control over the rocks. This is what they're campaigning for... But they already have it... Why campaign? Ridiculous. And what should really be understood by the campaigners is that they are harming their own case. Refuting ownership claims by Japan by saying that Dokdo is not disputed land is engaging in a dispute over the land. Yes, it's disputed, you're disputing it. On top of that is the simple fact that people don't care and don't want to hear about it. It makes people wish it wasn't Korean just because of how irritating it is to be dictated to about it.

And all of this is nothing compared to the fact that the rocks are next to useless. Korean campaigners will point to its strategic value for fishing. But isn't it true that the sex industry in Korea accounts for a higher percentage of GDP than agriculture and fishing? Logically, then, Koreans should be more concerned by any government/police plans to crack down on prostitution.

Finally, it's basically impossible to make the case that Korean campaigners do it for political or whatever sort of justice. It's about nationalism. I have never heard of Koreans discussing Dokdo by making reference to the Falklands, and a war was fought over them - surely a more serious and political case, nor the independence of Catalonia, for example, or any other land disputes, and there are plenty, such as the way Google maps outlines certain other borders in Asia. This simply shows the desire of Korean campaigners for the rest of the world to think exactly as they want them to, while displaying absolutely no knowledge or more importantly understanding of very similar issues in other parts of the world.

For the record, Dokdo is under South Korean control, and is set to remain that way, because I can't see Japan going to war over it, and so I think this should be enough. If everyone just shut up about it, eventually the issue would disappear, and the rocks would remain Korean. However, I have looked at both countries' claims, and I do feel that the Koreans have the far stronger claim, but this in no way justifies the campaigning, the press coverage, the adverts in foreign newspapers etc etc.

Puffin Watch said...

I have some great pictures from Myeong Dong of some Koreans piggy backing Dokdo onto the free hugs movement. Basically you could get a free hug if you agreed dokdo was Korea.

It struck me that however sappy free hugs is, it's supposed to be just that. Free. Without condition. You don't have to sign a loyalty oath to get a free hug.

Puffin Watch said...

Ha. Iranians will deny over-flight to any airline that doesn't call it the Persian gulf. Wonder how long before a Korean politicians suggests this tactic.

Muckefuck said...

The Gulf Of Mexico is now called the Gulf of America, and Koreans better start calling it that in Korea.

yehjee said...

I do think that reaction to Takeshima day was rather embarrassing, as a Korean myself. It disturbs me particularly because these are university students, who should know better.

But on the Dokdo issue, I believe there's more to the issue than just getting back at Japan, though there's definitely deep hostility toward Japan.
I only went to elementary school and a month of middle school in Korea, so my knowledge of Dokdo conflict is very limited, and I think that a lot of the information I got was biased, so I will explain in more general terms.

This is not just about who has claims to Dokdo, or whether the name of the sea should be "Sea of Japan" or "East Sea".
The issue is vital to Korean interest because of the control of the Sea of Japan. The value of Dokdo itself is trivial; it's a small and useless piece of land, had it not been for the fact that without Dokdo, Korea would lose the claims to the Sea around that area.
And I do believe Dokdo is a Korean land.
The reason why the Koreans care about the naming of the sea so much is because the name of the sea inherently implies that Japan controls the sea. Frequent Japanese violation of the Korean-controlled area of the sea fuel the conflict further. And then there's Japanese propaganda.
Koreans feel that Japan is deliberately spreading the propaganda to expand their control of the sea by diplomatic agreements with international powers and by rewriting textbooks to assert their right to the territory.
When the name "Sea of Japan" was adopted, Korea was not a major power by any standards; on the other hand, Japan was a leading imperialist power. There's even a word that Japanese secretly traded medical experiment records they gathered with the influence/control of the Sea of Japan with the United States. I highly doubt that, but nonetheless you can see how Japanese imperialism of Korea has tremendously affected Korean politics and public sentiment.

And it is easy to be unreasonable about this issue for many Koreans, when they have relatives who have lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea. My friend had a great aunt who screamed at night with nightmares about Japanese soldiers raping her. She passed away few years ago.

Japanese occupation brought humiliation to Koreans who have historically regarded Japanese as little more than "barbarians"; when Korea woke up from the arrogant, self-imposed isolation, she found herself conquered by Japanese "barbarians," and forced to give up Korean language in favor of Japanese. And later, Korea was only able to gain independence with the foreign intervention from USA and Soviet Union, which resulted in division of the country. All of these events are humiliating to Korea--and naturally, the widespread sentiment now is "never again." Never again let Japanese take away anything from Korea. Never again will Korea depend on foreign powers to solve our problems. Korea believes the first step of stopping Japanese imperialism is to never let Japan get away with Imperialist propaganda, and I think this is what this is all about.

yehjee said...

Also, I do not advocate that "Sea of Japan" should be changed to "East Sea"--but rather something else that doesn't imply either Korean or Japanese claim to the sea.

3gyupsal said...

If I were a map publisher, I would write East Sea for Koreans and Sea of Japan for Japanese, and in other countries write both in the same space and also provide both Sea of Japan and East sea maps. It might tempting to tell "East Sea," fanatic Koreans to go fuck themselves, but it doesn't make anyone any money.

There at least is a story behind why Koreans might want to have the name changed. It is how maturely that story is told that makes the difference.

Look at these different scenarios:

American: Why do you want to call it the East Sea?

Korean: Because of rape and murder.

Scenario 2.

American: Why do you want to call it the East Sea?

Korean: We don't really care what it's called, we just use it as a means of communicating or sad past, and reminding the world that we are still here.

Now weather or not anyone agrees with the second scenario is beside the point. At least it is an honest expression of the feelings.

I am more concerned with the fact that many Korean students I meet don't know the names of the oceans in English. Imagine how this plane crash scenario might go down.

Coast Guard on the phone with a Korean person in a plane crash.

Coast Guard: How are you doing?

Korean: I'm fine thank you and you?

Coast Guard: Where are you?

Korean: 태평양.

Coast Guard: I don't understand.

Fat Tony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fat Tony said...

One question. If Japan did not exist, then would this body of water be distinct from the Pacific Ocean? No? Then it is the Japan Sea.

The North Sea would arguably exist as the body of water in the armpit between Holland and Denmark if Britain did not exist. Thus it is the North Sea.

The English Channel, however, wouldn't, and it is a more relevant comparison. The French call that "la manche" and they are welcome to the name. The bitter memory of Agincourt still remains in some quarters, but you don't have people in Paris performing street theater about the nomenclature of particular bodies of water. Why? Because Parisians are not po-dunk bumpkins from a provincial backwater. Bout time Seouleouns started acting the same way.

mr. said...

i'm japanese...i say flip a coin or call it 'sea of korea' and just call 'we got next' go korea! go japan! it's all good :o)