The international maritime body has recommended a solution to a perpetual spat between Korea and Japan that has incensed patriots and filled column inches on both sides without being of much interest to anyone else.
The International Hydrographic Organization called on Japan to consider referring to the body of water between the two countries as both the "East Sea" and the "Sea of Japan," the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Friday.
Japan insist that "Sea of Japan" is the only name recognized by the IHO, and Korea has expended a lot of effort to change the guideline and adopt "East Sea."
The daily reported the IHO hopes that the two neighboring countries can finally agree on the use of both names ahead of the general assembly in 2020.
Last year, the IHO secretariat warned Japan that it could revise the name without Tokyo’s input if Japan refuses to hold talks with Seoul, but the nationalist government there has so far dug in its heels.
The IHO adopted the name "Sea of Japan" in 1929, when Korea was a Japanese colony and has listed it as such in "Limits of Oceans and Seas," a publication featuring the names of oceans and their boundaries first compiled in 1953.
Korea calls it the "East Sea" but is willing to accept the dual name despite echoes of the occupation it carries lapping on its shores. One Japanese government official told the daily, "Looking at recent developments, the joint reference could become a possibility."
A source in Korea said, "The IHO is calling on Japan to engage in talks, but that does not mean the situation is completely in our favor. You can see Japanese media fomenting anti-Korean sentiment" following a Korean court ruling ordering Japanese businesses to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during World War II and other unresolved issues.
The body of water bordered by Korea and Japan is referred to as "Sea of Japan" in this screen capture of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans website by the International Hydrographic organization and UNESCO. /Yonhap