Virginia's House of Delegates voted 81-15 to approve the two-line
bill, which requires "that all text books approved by the Broad of
Education ... when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it
is also called the East Sea."
The bill had already been approved by the state Senate. Governor
Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has veto power but spoke on behalf of
the Korean perspective during his campaign for governor and is
widely expected to sign the measure.
It was a significant victory for vocal campaigners among Virginia's
82,000 Korean-Americans, who greatly outnumber the state's 19,000
ethnic Japanese and showed up in the hundreds to cheer the vote in
the state capital, Richmond.
The vote followed intense lobbying not only by Korean-Americans but
the governments of South Korea and Japan more than 7,000 miles away,
which have been squabbling for years over the name for the sea,
which separates their countries.
Japan's campaign included warnings that Japanese investment in
Virginia could be hurt by a negative outcome, while Japanese
officials voiced concern that what they call a "test case" could
spark similar campaigns elsewhere.
Peter Y. Kim, a Virginia resident and president of the Voice of
Korean Americans, said he hoped what happened in Virginia would
"I hope that other Korean-Americans in other states will try to
correct their textbooks," he said. "It's not just good for
Korean-American children ... it's good for all Americans."
It is a source of intense bitterness for Koreans that the name "Sea
of Japan" was standardized worldwide while Korea was under Japanese
colonial rule, after the International Hydrographic Organization, or
IHO, published its definitive "Limits of the Oceans and the Seas" in
Japan argues that "Sea of Japan" is recognized by the United Nations
and most big states, including the United States, Britain, France,
Germany and China. A long Korean campaign for recognition of the
"East Sea" has so far failed to gain much traction.
On Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that the
"Sea of Japan" was the only internationally established name and
said the U.S. government recognized it as the sole official name.
"We must continue to firmly explain the correct way of thinking
about the name Sea of Japan and our country's position on the
issue," he said at a regular news conference in Tokyo.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo, already frayed, worsened after by
a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a shrine to former
military leaders that South Korea said showed a lack of contrition
for Japan's imperialist past.
[to top of second column]
The Monaco-based IHO did not respond to a request for comment before
Thursday's vote, but the National Geographic Society in Washington
said it began including "East Sea" in parentheses after the Sea of
Japan in its maps in 1999 in response to growing international use
of the term.
"In the absence of an international agreement, we feel a need to
inform our readers of this toponymic dichotomy," spokeswoman Kelsey
Flora said in a statement on Wednesday.
Virginia Delegate Tim Hugo, a Republican who sponsored the bill in
his chamber, said he was surprised by the huge interest in the bill
by both Korean- and Japanese-Americans.
"I didn't realize all the passion would be involved on both sides,"
The Washington Post reported in January that Japan's ambassador to
Washington, Kenichiro Sasae, wrote to McAuliffe late last year
urging him to oppose the bill or risk damaging the strong economic
relationship between Japan and Virginia.
Sasae noted Japan was the state's second-largest foreign investor,
injecting almost $1 billion in the past five years. He said Japanese
companies employed about 13,000 people there.
"I fear ... the positive cooperation and the strong economic ties
between Japan and Virginia may be damaged if the bills are to be
enacted," the Post quoted the letter as saying.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported this month that Japan's
embassy agreed to pay the McGuireWoods consulting firm at least
$75,000 to lobby on its behalf.
McGuireWoods has confirmed it is representing the Japanese Embassy.
The embassy has declined comment.
The main Senate sponsor of the bill, Democrat David Marsden,
reported receiving $7,600 last year from South Korea's Foreign
Ministry for a trip to Seoul, according to Virginia Public Access
Project, a nonprofit tracker of money in Virginia politics.
(Writing by David Brunnstrom; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Ian Simpson in Washington and Elaine Lies and Linda
Sieg in Tokyo; editing by Peter Cooney and Steve Orlofsky)
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