Saturday, October 08, 2005

East Sea of Japan and pollution

Rick Raffin, over at A Yank Abroad wrote about the East Sea/ Sea of Japan and decided that the real controvsy is how much pollution is being dumped into it. A Hai Dong Gum Do friend of mine, Todd Vercoe, wrote about the same subject years ago (as described at A Yank Abroad). To be honest, I've found Raffin's viewpoints to be annoying in the past but these are subjects he is in a good position, geographically, to know about. He lives in Donghae (the same name as the sea) which has two giant cement plants and, though probably cleaner than Pohang, is a good place to see the effects of industry on the water.

After describing abandoned nets, he talks about the ships that carry cement:
These boats that come in and pick up cement at the Halla dock down the beach, and at the Port of Donghae in the other direction, flush their bilges of excess liquid before going out again. The major cause of marine pollution is not oil tankers sinking, but the hundreds and thousands of sea captains worldwide who routinely flush their bilges of excess water, and all the oil and diesel fuel that it contains.

Dumping of bilge water close to shore is an international problem and it is bilge water that brought the Zebra mussel and other invasives to the Great Lakes of Canada and the US. I think one of the invasives is from Asia; the snake-fish, a kind of superpredator that eats fish eggs. I don't know about if there are any invasives of note in Korea's coastal waters.

Raffin also describes the construction of a golf course next to the ocean. He simply complains generally about overdevelopment but golf courses are significant on their own. I recall a study from the 90's that showed Japan in one year having 4 deaths from pesticide and fertilizer use- all were golf course employees. The courses use, I forget, but four times or more chemicals than farmers do per unit area.

While Raffin's article mentions the East Sea/ Sea of Japan issue in passing and is devoted to the environmental problems of the Sea itself, Vercoe's article is the mirror image; most of it describes the name issue and ends with a short note on the pollution. His main points are every country has an 'east' and names don't confer ownership.

I think the first point is more interesting. The name "East___" doesn't tell us where the geographical object is. The North Sea is fairly easy to find. Although it is not at the far north, we could reasonably disregard the southern two-thirds of the globe in looking for it. This is not true with the East Sea. With the name "The Sea of Japan", we can probably turn to the right atlas page in one try.

From Vercoe's article:
Korea should assert such international pressure on bettering the ecology of the water rather than on unimportant nomenclature so that the people from all four nations would benefit in longer lives, better health and a more vibrant marine industry.

Maybe the pollution will cause Korea and Japan to use the names in a different style, much as my wife and I do when our son is good or bad. When he's bad, I will say, "Look what your son did!", most of the time, I say, "Look what our son did.", but if I'm really pleased, it's "Ah! My son!" Korea may say,"Fish stocks are declining in the Sea of Japan." or the converse, "The East Sea is much cleaner than the dirty Yellow Sea."

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