“Dokdo,” South Korea’s name for its easternmost islets, was used together with the Japanese name “Takeshima” in a U.S. Congressional Research Service report amid frosty relations between Seoul and Tokyo, sparking concerns that this may benefit Japan.
The U.S. congressional report’s adoption of the dual names for the Dokdo Islets came as some U.S. lawmakers are pushing for the use of “the East Sea” along with “the Sea of Japan” in textbooks, led by the state of Virginia.
The CRS reports, which provide research and analysis on American policies in various areas, including relations with Asian countries, are said to have an impact on the policy decisions and proposed legislation of the U.S. administration.
The Dokdo Islets, which lie closer to South Korea in the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, have long been a thorn in relations between the two neighbors. Seoul has dispatched a small police force to the islets as part of efforts to effectively continue controlling them.
But scholars are raising concerns that the dual name for Dokdo might be part of the results of Japan’s efforts to paint the dispute as an international one.
“Japan is attempting to persuade Washington to push Korea to discuss the issue at an international court. Once the U.S. suggests a move to Seoul, the issue immediately becomes an international issue,” said Hosaka Yuji, director of Dokdo Research Institute at Sejong University in Seoul.
In 2008, the U.S. Board of Geographical Naming changed Dokdo’s status to “undesignated sovereignty” on its website, outraging the Korean public as it had formerly been designated South Korean territory. The agency restored the original status one week later, upon Korea’s request ahead of the former U.S. President George W. Bush’s state visit to Seoul.
It was later uncovered that the agency’s initial move was partially influenced by Japanese lobby groups.
Meanwhile, the body of water between the two countries was also labeled with two names ― the East Sea and the Sea of Japan ― in the CRS reports.
Several U.S. states are working on bills that require the use of both “the East Sea” and “the Sea of Japan” under the dual name system in school textbooks, instead of using only the Japanese term. Virginia recently passed a bill that requires all textbooks to use both the Korean and Japanese names. The new policy will go into effect on July 1 after Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs it into law.
Earlier this month, lawmakers in New York and New Jersey also joined the Korean-American community’s movement for the dual name system for the East Sea.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (firstname.lastname@example.org)