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French world atlas uses ‘East Sea’ name

Atlas’ new world map using the names “Mer de l’Est (East Sea)”and “Mer du Japon (Sea of Japan).” (Yonhap News)
Atlas’ new world map using the names “Mer de l’Est (East Sea)”and “Mer du Japon (Sea of Japan).” (Yonhap News)
PARIS (Yonhap News) ― The French publisher of one of the world’s most authoritative world atlases has adopted both Korean and Japanese names for the waters between them in its latest edition, according to publishing firms here on Tuesday.

The company Atlas used the names “Mer de l’Est (East Sea)”and “Mer du Japon (Sea of Japan)” printed in letters of the same size in eight maps of its world atlas for 2012, they said.

It marks the first time that the Korean name for the waters has been used concurrently and treated equally with the Japanese name by a top atlas publisher.

Titled “Le Grand Atlas,” meaning the grand atlas in English, and heavy with more than 400 pages, the book is on top of the global world atlas market along with one published by National Geographic of the United States.

Many other international publishers of world atlases are expected to follow suit, although the International Hydrographic Organization, an intergovernmental organization representing maritime bureaucrats around the world, failed to decide during its latest meeting in April whether to revise a global chart that at present refers only to the Sea of Japan.

Japan registered the term as the official name of the sea with the IHO in the early 1920s, when the Korean Peninsula was under its colonial rule.

South Korea has long campaigned for the concurrent adoption of its favored name for the waters, but no change has been made so far with the global chart, titled “Limits of Oceans and Seas” and better known as S-23.

National Geographic and some other leading atlas publishers predated their French rival in using the East Sea together with the Sea of Japan. The publishers put the Korean name in brackets, however, and printed it in smaller letters, giving the impression that the Sea of Japan is the primary term.

Li Jine-mieung, a Korean studies professor at France’s Lyon 3 University, said the French atlas is a step forward from the latest 2010 edition of the National Geographic atlas in giving an equal status to both names.

The French book “is expected to have much influence on other French-speaking and foreign countries to precisely describe Korean place names, including the equal use of the East Sea and the Sea of Japan,” he said.
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