WASHINGTON – Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed into law a bill requiring Virginia textbooks to note that the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, commonly known as the Sea of Japan, are also referred to as the East Sea, the Washington Post reported in its online edition Thursday.
Virginia is believed to be the first state to mandate the change, lobbied for by Korean-Americans who argue that the term “Sea of Japan” is an artifact of Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from its debated annexation in 1910. The peninsula was liberated after Japan’s war of aggression was halted in 1945 by the Allied powers.
McAuliffe made the decision despite the objections of the Japanese government, which attempted to convince Virginia’s legislators that “Sea of Japan” is the only internationally recognized name for the waters.
The Virginia State Senate passed the bill in January and an overwhelming number of lower house legislators followed suit in February.
Recognizing the strong support for the measure, McAuliffe signed it into law on March 31, the Post reported.
The law, which will take effect July 1, requires textbooks approved by the state board of education to include the term “East Sea” next to “Sea of Japan”.
Korean-American groups are pushing similar legislation in New York and New Jersey.
The U.S. federal government has indicated its support for the use of the term “Sea of Japan” without reference to “East Sea.”