Virginia passed the East Sea Bill
The Korean national anthem starts with the East Sea. At 1 p.m. on February 6, 2014, the Virginia House passed the bill that required all Virginia textbooks to include the East Sea alongside the Sea of Japan, by an overwhelming vote of 81 to 15. Now, all students in Virginia will see the East Sea in their textbooks. Since Virginia and six southern states, including Texas, have an agreement on sharing textbooks, potentially up to seven U.S. states will adopt textbooks that include the East Sea. What made the U.S. state of Virginia pass this bill? It was clearly a victory of the Korean-American community.
“America stands for freedom and democracy. Neglecting the legacy of imperialism in its school textbooks is un-American. The Sea of Japan symbolizes Japanese imperialism.” – 150,000 Korean-American residents in Virginia
“During Japanese annexation, she [mymother] was not allowed to use her given name that her father gave her. She had to use a Japanese name …When they [Koreans] open up the textbooks of their children and they saw a map (with a name that reflects historic inaccuracy), that reminds them of the oppression, that reminds them of the invasion, that reminds them of the body of water that was crossed by the Japanese to come and annex that nation for 35 years.” – Virginia Delegate Mark Keam (Democrat)
“Require all textbooks approved by the Board ofEducation to note that the Sea of Japan is also referred to as the East Sea.” – HB 11, introduced by Virginia Delegate Timothy Hugo (Republican)
You may be curious about why American textbooks adopted the Sea of Japan in the first place.
The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) was founded in 1921 to define international standards for the names of seas and oceans and support safe navigation of ships. In 1929, the IHO published “the Limits of Oceans and Seas (S-23)” that contains the list of the names of oceans and seas. Japan lobbied the IHO to adopt the Sea of Japan, while Korea under Japanese rule was unable to represent its side. As a result, only the Sea of Japan was used in the publication, which fueled the spread of the name on world maps and in textbooks. This practice remained in the second (1937) and third edition (1953) of S-23 because Korea was either under Japanese rule or in a war at the time of the publications.
In 1991, Korea joined the United Nations. In 1992, it finally began to raise objections to the Sea of Japan at the UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. Since then, Koreans have been working to recover the name of the East Sea. Giving back its original name to our sea is not a matter of politics, but a step toward the dream of full independence that Korean freedom fighters shed blood to restore.
You may still wonder why Korean Americans strive to add the East Sea in American textbooks.
Here is their answer: “For Koreans, the name Sea of Japan is part of the remnants of Japanese imperialism because Japan changed the East Sea to the Sea of Japan during its occupation of Korea. The IHO adopted the singular name Sea of Japan in 1929 when Korea was under Japanese rule. If our children and their friends see only the Sea of Japan in their school textbooks, they will grow up with a biased historical perspective. The United States is a global champion of democracy, freedom, and justice. Neglecting the remnants of Japanese imperialism is a disgrace.”
You may also wonder why Japan opposes the dual naming of the East Sea and the Sea of Japan.
Due to the strenuous efforts of Korean-Americans, the Virginia Board of Education and legislators recognized the problem of the name Sea of Japan and began to support Koreans’position. Japan kicked into full gear to put a break on this movement. The Japanese Embassy hired a leading law firm, McGuireWoods Consulting, to stop the passage of Virginia’s East Sea bill. A team of lobbyists from the firm aggressively lobbied legislators.
“Virginia’s Legislature is involving politics in education. American students deserve to learn the truth. Politicians shouldn’t confuse students.”
“The United States government recognizes the Sea of Japan as the singular name. And the Department of State affirms that its longstanding policy is to refer to each sea or ocean by a single name. We are concerned that the passage of the bill would affect Japanese sentiment toward Virginia.”
“Japan has been the second largest source of foreign direct investment in Virginia, with almost $1 billion dollars in the last five years. Around 250 Japanese companies are investing in Virginia, employing 13,000 Virginians in 2012. …I fear, however, that the positive cooperation and the strong economic ties between Japan and Virginia may be damaged if the bills are to be enacted.”
These threats from the Japanese Embassy affected Governor Terry McAuliffe. The concerned governor ordered his staff to advise committee members to reject the bill. Nine other legislators were also lobbied. Then, the Korean-American community released the governor’s letter in which he had promised during his campaign to support legislation requiring the addition of the East Seain Virginia textbooks. Korean Americans publicly appealed to him to keep his promise. Japan’s lobby finally failed. McAuliffe’s spokesman told to the Washington Post, “He made a campaign promise to sign it, and he’s going to honor his promise.”
The Virginia House passed the bill in an 81-15 vote and the governor signed it into law. It was a victory of Korean-Americans’ grassroots movement over Japan’s massive lobbying efforts. Some asked Korean Americans in Virginia,
“What made you do this? Are you Korean or American?” They answered, “Our children study with these textbooks. If there is a problem in their textbooks, it is our responsibility to correct it. We are Korean Americans. We are ethnic Korean, and we are American citizens who pay taxes and vote in this country. With the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants. We all respect each other as equal.”
America’s major map and textbook publishers have been using the East Sea, from twelve years before Virginia’s passage of the East Sea bill. GraphicMaps, a famous U.S. map publisher, was moved by VANK members’ grassroots efforts to promote the East Sea. In 2002, it made a statement regarding the East Sea on its website, worldatlas.com. See the link:
VANK has made a significant amount of change in the use of the East Sea worldwide. In 2000, only 3% of world maps used East Sea. In 2014, 28% used the East Sea alone or alongside the Sea of Japan.We convinced many important players, including National Geographic, Lonely Planet, PBS 45&49, Dorling Kindersley, Yahoo, and the BBC. Please join us in our efforts to restore the East Sea on world maps. Together, we can change the world!
Virginia revises textbook guidelines in line with ‘East Sea’ legislation
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) — The U.S. state of Virginia has revised the guidelines for history and social science education in line with a newly enacted law that requires textbooks to use the Korean name “East Sea” alongside the Japanese name “Sea of Japan” for the body of water between the two countries.
The Virginia Department of Education is collecting public opinions until Dec. 21 on the revised 2015 History and Social Science Standards of Learning Curriculum Framework that will serve as the guidelines for new textbooks to be used beginning in 2017.
The new guidelines reflected the landmark legislation requiring the use of both the East Sea and the Sea of Japan together. The legislation passed through the Virginia House of Delegates in February, and Virginia is the first U.S. state to take such action on the issue.
The new framework, which is revised every seven years and last revised in 2008, mentioned the East Sea issue as it calls for students to understand how different cultures use maps and place names to reflect their regional perspectives.
It also calls for students to analyze the characteristics of the East Asian region by describing major physical and environmental features.
Koreans believe it’s important to teach the historic background on why the water is more widely known as the Sea of Japan than its original name, the East Sea. They say it’s just a relic of Japan’s imperialistic past, including the 1910-45 colonization of Korea.