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Virginia legislators push for use of ‘East Sea’ in textbooks

By Korea Herald

Published : July 25, 2013 - 20:11

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WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― Efforts to publicize the name “East Sea” for the body of water between Korea and Japan in the U.S. state of Virginia have gained momentum with growing support from local legislators.

A senior Republican member of the Virginia House, Time Hugo, announced Wednesday that he will introduce legislation in next year’s session to require all future textbooks approved by the Virginia Board of Education to note that the body of water is referred to as the East Sea as well as the currently used name of the Sea of Japan.

Koreans believe the original and proper name of the waters is the East Sea. They say the Sea of Japan, which is still more popular in the international community, is a legacy of Japan’s imperialistic past.

“Academically it is important to acknowledge that this dispute exists between these countries. Unfortunately, current Virginia textbooks make no reference to the ongoing dispute between two countries regarding the naming of this body of water,” Hugo, who represents Fairfax Country in northern Virginia, said in a press release.

More than 2.5 million Korean-Americans reside in the U.S. and around 150,000 of them are in Virginia.

“It is not right that their position on this issue be ignored,” he stressed. “It is not right that so many of our Korean-American students are taught that there is only one name for this body of water, when their culture and history say otherwise.”

Hugo serves as chairman of the Virginia House Republican Caucus. The House is controlled by Republicans. In May, David Marsden, a Democratic member of the Virginia Senate, said he will re-introduce a bill early next year to require textbooks to carry both the names.

Korean Americans here are holding out expectations that the legislation will pass in both the Senate and House next year.

“Thanks to continued efforts, many members of the (Virginia) Senate support our campaign,” said Peter Y. Kim, head of the Voice of Korean Americans (VoKA).

VoKA was created in January to promote the use of “the East Sea.”

“Virginia gubernatorial candidates ― Ken Cuccinelli of the Republican Party and Terry McAuliffe of the Democratic Party ― promised to support the legislation,” Kim added.

His group’s final goal is to include “the East Sea” in all textbooks used at elementary, junior high and high schools in 50 states by March 2017, when the International Hydrographic Organization holds a meeting to discuss Seoul’s request for the concurrent use of the East Sea and the Sea of Japan in formal international maps.