Japan and Korea take disputed waters quarrel to US textbooks

In Other News - February 11th, 2014

What’s in a name? Japan and South Korea have taken their territorial bickering to foreign ground as the row moves into history textbooks.

The two nations are lobbying to have the names of the disputed waters written with their Japanese and Korean names in school textbooks in the US state of Virginia. The contested waters are called the Sea of Japan by Tokyo and the East Sea by Seoul.

But South Korea gained the upper hand after Virginia’s state legislature approved a bill that requires all new text books approved by the board of education “should note the Sea of Japan as the East Sea.”

South Korea welcomed the decision. “We understand that Virginia accepted the claim because it is a reasonable one,” said South Korea Foreign Ministry spokesman, Cho Tae-young.

“We also think highly of our brethren’s efforts in the US to bring this change.”

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said his country would continue to lobby for the title “Sea of Japan” to be acknowledged globally, adding that “the Sea of Japan has been [the] internationally accepted appellation … by the United States government.”

In December, Japan’s ambassador to the US, Kenichiro Sasae, sent Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe a letter to protest the initiative and warn that “strong economic ties between Japan and Virginia may be damaged if the bills are to be enacted,” according to the Associated Press.

Japan hired a team of lobbyists to defend its position and had stressed that “Sea of Japan” was the only name that was recognized by the United Nations and the International Hydrographic Organization.

The US State Department said there was no change to US government policy.

“The US Board on Geographic Names’ standard name for that body of water is the Sea of Japan. We understand that the Republic of Korea and others use a different term, but that is the term we use,” state department spokeswoman Jennifer Paski said.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: shawncalhoun/Flickr