Hatred & Distrust of Japan: The Real Force Behind Korea’s “East Sea” Campaign

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    Seoul-based reporter Andrew Salmon has written an excellent article about South Korea’s constant campaigning to force people who speak different languages to adopt the Korea-centric name “East Sea” as the international name for the Sea of Japan.

    Salmon is fed up with twisted views of history:

    I am tired of Koreans preaching about how non-Koreans must learn “right” or “correct” history. What they actually mean is “Koreans’ interpretation of history,” for history is not science, and beyond certain basic facts, historical events and trends are open to interpretation. I have yet to read an article in the local press that acknowledges opposing arguments ― the practice seems to be, “Ignore them, and restate the Korean side.”

    And sees a nationalism founded upon hatred of Japan as the real reason behind Korean actions:

    As I see it, the real reason Koreans want a name change is simple. Nationalism is a powerful emotive force in Northeast Asia in general and in Korea in particular. A cornerstone of Korean nationalism is distrust, dislike or hatred of Japan. This, I think, is the real force behind the “East Sea” campaign.

    Alas, self-righteous, introspective campaigning on grounds of wounded national pride wins few international allies or votes. On the contrary, a low-key, restrained approach may be more effective. Japan has certainly been a less aggressive advocate. Seoul sent a 16-man delegation to the IHO; Tokyo just nine. A search of Google news finds over 30 Korean reports, but just one from Japan.

    While Korea’s consumer exports, pop culture products and tourism marketing win friends around the world, I am willing to bet that nationalist emoting does not. If the “East Sea” issue can be laid to rest, and Koreans refocus on national, rather than nationalist agendas, so much the better.

    If you’re interested in reading more of Salmon’s works, he has two books available on Amazon.com: To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951 and Scorched Earth, Black Snow: Britain and Australia in the Korean War, 1950.

    [Hat tip to VGS]

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