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17th century nautical chart denotes ‘Sea of Korea

A nautical chart specifying the waters between Korea and Japan as the Sea of Korea was recently found in Japan.

The chart, produced in 1646 by Sir Robert Dudley, the English explorer and cartographer who created the 17th century maritime encyclopedia Dell’Arcano del Mare, labels the body of water between the two countries as “Mare di Corai,” meaning Sea of Korea. The waters south of the Japanese island of Kagoshima receive the separate notation of “Mare de Giappone,” or Sea of Japan.

“While we have found maps from the 19th and 18th centuries, this is the first 17th century map we have discovered of the area in question,” said Kim Mun-gil, emeritus professor at Busan University of Foreign Studies, who discovered the chart at a Japanese cultural center affiliated with the Japanese Ministry of Education.

“At the time the chart was drafted, Joseon was still a relatively closed country, and thus the sources of information relating to geographical names were likely the Japanese themselves,” continued Kim. “We can understand the denotations as reflecting the perceptions of the Japanese people with regards to the surrounding waters.”

The announcement by Kim came on April 15, less than a week before the general assembly meeting of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), which is scheduled to open in Monaco on April 23. Kim attested that the cultural center where he found the map confirmed that the “Sea of Japan” notation, officially registered by Japan with the IHO in the 1920s, came into use only after the 19th century.

In the ongoing debate as to the correct designation for the contested body of water, the Korean government has stated the validity of the “East Sea” notation and continues to seek support for parallel usage of “East Sea” and “Sea of Japan” notations.

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Korean History
Korean History
17th century nautical chart denotes ‘Sea of Korea