Some Americans annoyed by ‘East Sea’ bill

February 10, 2014

By Jane Han

NEW YORK ― After years of lobbying and hardcore campaigning by Korean-Americans, Virginia lawmakers finally passed a bill last week related to the naming of the body of water between Korea and Japan.

Great news for Koreans, but many Americans don’t seem psyched about the impending change. All the time and effort spent on the East Sea vs. Sea of Japan issue is just too much, they say.

”Good grief, why are U.S. lawmakers in the business of renaming geography a world away?’’ said a Virginia public school official, who wanted to be named only as Michael. ”I think it is a waste of time. It’s only going to cost taxpayers more money to make new textbooks.’’

The Virginia House of Delegates approved on Thursday a bill that would require school textbooks to label the water between Korea and Japan as both the East Sea and Sea of Japan. Ahead of the highly anticipated decision, Koreans and Japanese have waged an intense years-long battle to lobby lawmakers in their direction.

”I see why this matters to Korea. I see why this matters to Japan. Why does this matter to Virginia?’’ said Annee Riggs, the mother of a second-grader in Fairfax, Virginia. ”The Korean population is high in Fairfax, so I know that Koreans are very emotional about this issue. But I just don’t think it is relevant here in the U.S.’’

Hundreds of Korean-Americans dressed in hanbok poured into the Virginia House Chamber just before the gavel sounded, announcing that the delegates approved the new law, according to reports from local news channels.

The one-sentence bill, which will take effect as early as July, says, ”All textbooks 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.’’

News of the first law of its kind in the U.S. stirred up debate on the Internet as well.

”American lawmakers shouldn’t be spending so much time, energy and effort on this issue. They need to focus on our own problems that really matter to everyday Americans,’’ wrote Lisa G. on Political Forum, a popular community discussing current events.

Another user wrote on an NPR thread, ”It seems like Koreans are really into promoting their political agenda in the U.S., but why? Is it that effective? Is it worthy? Does it want the U.S. to play favorites?’’

These comments come despite the efforts made on both the private and public levels to campaign for issues, such as the East Sea and Dokdo, in the U.S.

While many people expressed frustration, some did see a point in engaging international topics.

”It opens up a discussion, doesn’t it? Before, it was just a numb fact: This blue blob between Japan and Korea is the ‘Sea of Japan.’ Like memorizing bones. Now it’s, ‘Why does it have two names?’ And you can talk about it. Why Korea and Japan both have claim to the name of that body of water, and why that’s important,’’ wrote Tiny Hands on the same forum. ”It’s a small change, sure, but it represents an underlying disservice we do to students in public education.’’

Alyssa Horton, a Maryland public school official, said, ”Good debate always improves learning. Even if this is a problem that is happening on the opposite side of the world, our students should know about it. We need to broaden their views beyond our borders.’’

One Comment

  1. Barton

    February 21, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    Nationalist nonsense. No relevance to the US.