While it may be a big deal in Japan and South Korea, Americans are befuddled that an obscure bill filed in Virginia is causing a furor, to the point that the Japanese ambassador to the U.S. himself is sitting down with their governor. The legislation requires that any new textbooks in Virginia schools has to indicate that the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea.
It may be laughable to those who don’t understand the history between the two Asian countries, but it is a major issue for South Korea, as the label of Sea of Japan is a painful reminder to them of the Japanese occupation. Virginia is home to a large Korean population and it was on their behalf that three legislators submitted the bill that requires all public school textbooks to carry both names for the body of water. But Japan is going all out to state their case, with the ambassador to the United States, Kenichiro Sasae, meeting with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and other legislative leaders for a “courtesy call”, as Japan is one of the state’s largest trading partners. But sources say the real purpose of the meeting is to discuss the bill, which is obviously opposed by Japan.
The Embassy of Japan has also hired lobbyists from a U.S. law firm, McGuire Woods, to present their case during committee meetings at the legislature. They argue that the International Hydrographic Organisation, which charts bodies of water officially, as well as the U.S. government and the White House, are using the Sea of Japan as the label for that body of water and Virginia should not have to make their own foreign policy regarding that issue. There has been no comment from the embassy or from the lobbyists themselves. The body of water in question is also where the disputed Takeshima Islands, called Dokdo by Koreans, lie. The uninhabited islets have been the source of a territorial dispute between the two neighbours.
[ via Sydney Morning Herald ]