Virginia textbooks have not always been known for their historical accuracy, but at least now they will no longer unwittingly serve as reminders of Japanese colonial rule in Korea.

"RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - Two of America's closest Asian allies played out their historic rivalry in the U.S. state of Virginia on Thursday, with South Korea celebrating victory after state lawmakers approved legislation requiring that the Korean name for the Sea of Japan be included in new school textbooks.

Virginia's House of Delegates voted 81-15 to approve the two-line bill, which requires "that all text books approved by the Broad of Education ... when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it is also called the East Sea."

The bill had already been approved by the state Senate. Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has veto power but spoke on behalf of the Korean perspective during his campaign for governor and is widely expected to sign the measure.

It was a significant victory for vocal campaigners among Virginia's 82,000 Korean-Americans, who greatly outnumber the state's 19,000 ethnic Japanese and showed up in the hundreds to cheer the vote in the state capital, Richmond.

The vote followed intense lobbying not only by Korean-Americans but the governments of South Korea and Japan more than 7,000 miles away, which have been squabbling for years over the name for the sea, which separates their countries."

The local news story on this issue had this quote worth considering.

"Opponents of the measure warned that it sets a bad precedent for legislative interference in academic matters.

“I’m wondering what business is it of the commonwealth of Virginia to engage in the nomenclature of bodies of water or land masses?” said Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico County.

He suggested that the Assembly might next be asked to weigh in on the Persian Gulf, the Irish Sea or even the English Channel.

Del. Johnny Joannou, D-Portsmouth, drew on his Greek-American heritage to argue against the bill, noting that Constantinople, which fell to the Ottoman Turks in the 1400s, ultimately lost its centuries-old name when the Turks rechristened it Istanbul.

Nevertheless, Joannou said, he has no plans to introduce a bill to recognize the name Constantinople.

“I have some deep feelings, but I’m an American. I was born in this country and I love this country,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that have happened in history which were wrong…. That was all in the past.

“I can’t change history.”


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