News / Asia

Korea, Japan Await Virginia Vote Over Name of Sea

TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Another round in the rivalry between two of America's closest allies will play out far from their shores on Thursday when the state of Virginia decides on a bill requiring the Korean name for the Sea of Japan to be included in new school textbooks.

Virginia's Senate has already approved the two-line bill requiring “that all text books approved by the Board of Education... when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it is also referred to as the East Sea.”

An affirmative vote in the House of Delegates would be a significant victory for campaigners among Virginia's estimated 82,000 Korean-Americans and the South Korean government more than 7,000 miles (11,000 km) away.

The bill would still require approval by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who spoke in favor of the Korean view during his election campaign last year.

Thursday's vote follows intense lobbying not only by Korean-Americans but the governments of South Korea and Japan over the name for the sea that separates their countries.

Japan's campaign has included warnings that Japanese investment in Virginia could be hurt by a negative outcome, while Japanese officials have voiced worries that what they call a “test case” could spark similar campaigns elsewhere.

Relations are already frayed between Seoul and Tokyo after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a shrine to former military leaders that South Korea said showed a lack of contrition for Japan's imperialist past.

The name “Sea of Japan” is widely accepted outside of Korea. But it is a source of bitterness for Koreans that the usage became standard 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 1929.

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 has failed to gain much traction.

“Toponymic dichotomy”

The Monaco-based IHO did not respond for a request for comment, 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.

The Washington Post reported that Japan's ambassador to the United States, 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.

While only a 19,000 ethnic Japanese live in Virginia, Sasae pointed out that Japan was the Southern state's second-largest foreign investor, injecting almost $1 billion in the past five years. He said Japanese firms 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.

The main sponsor of the bill, Democratic state Senator 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.

Marsden is a lawmaker from Fairfax County, which has a sizeable Korean-American population. He told Watchdog.org that he hoped the bill would send a “welcoming message.” McGuireWoods confirmed it was lobbying on behalf of the Japanese Embassy on the issue. The embassy declined comment.

Peter Kim, head of the Voice of Korean Americans group, said Japanese colonial rule was in the past.

“We don't care about that. We just care about Korean heritage, Korean history. Fathers and mothers of Korean Americans strongly feel that the name 'East Sea' ought to be taught in school,” he said.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid