First it was Virginia and now the debate over what the proper name is for the body of water bordered by Japan on the east and Korea and Russia on the west should be called has now reached New York. Two Democrat senators from the state have submitted bills requiring school textbooks to refer to it as both the Sea of Japan, which is the internationally accepted name, and the East Sea, the name preferred by South Korea.
For a state that has around 100,000 Koreans and 25,000 Japanese residents, it’s no surprise that this kind of legislation would eventually happen, especially given the precedent in Virginia, where the Governor Terry McAuliffe is expected to sign the bill that was passed last week. State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky of Flushing and Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein of Bayside come from districts that have a large Korean constituency and this is something they feel is needed, given that the term Sea of Japan is a constant reminder to Koreans everywhere of the injustices they suffered during the Japanese occupation.
If the bill is passed, it would require that textbooks that will be issued after July 1, should use both names. But it would be up to the estimated 600 local school districts whether or not they should implement the legislation. Of course, the Korean consulate is pleased with efforts like this, and finds it “encouraging” in the absence of a “mutually agreeable solution” regarding the issue. Obviously, the Japanese consulate objected to such a move. “We have always maintained that the Sea of Japan is the only internationally accepted name in cartography and the position that it has any connection to the colonial past has no basis,” said Koichi Ai, a spokesperson for the embassy. The Sea of Japan has been used by the International Hydrographic Organization since 1929, and in 2012 rejected the challenge to change its name. They will revisit the issue once again by 2017.
[ via New York Times ]