What is the historically correct name for the body of water lying between Korea and Japan? There are many opinions, and in the world of geography and maps there is often more than one answer to the question. In short, it depends on whom you ask.
Before the 18th century, no one name was consistently used, and in fact varied names such as "East Sea," "Sea of Korea," "Sea of Japan" and "Oriental Sea" appeared in and on old maps, publications and atlases. Then for a variety of reasons the "Sea of Japan" became more prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In the late 1990's the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK) began an aggressive letter and email writing campaign, all in an effort to get the world, especially map makers, travel guides and geography web sites to include the East Sea, whenever the long-established Sea of Japan was found in print.
Their claim that the East Sea has some historical precedent worked, as some major book and map publishers, educational web sites and other reference materials now include the East Sea name along with the Sea of Japan.
At worldatlas.com we play no favorites, nor do we claim to know all of the answers, so until the two countries can reach a unified decision, we will continue to show both names on our maps. We simply ask both sides for their understanding. For additional information and opinions, we suggest the following two sites: