News / Asia

Korea, Japan Await Virginia Vote Over Name of Sea

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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs