Virginia votes to name Sea of Japan, East Sea, as well - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Virginia votes to name Sea of Japan, East Sea, as well

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Hundreds of Korean-Americans made their way to Capital Square Thursday, as the Virginia House of Delegates voted to include the Korean name "East Sea" alongside the Sea of Japan in future textbooks.

Korean families in bright traditional gowns spilled from the gallery of the House Chamber, into an underground overflow room before the House gavel sounded at noon.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved the measure 81-15, a significant win for Virginia's estimated 82,000 Korean-Americans.

A similar bill also has Senate approval, and is expected to be signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The controversy concerning the name of the Sea stretches more than a century, when Japan first invaded the Korean Peninsula. The Sea of Japan was officially recognized as the name for the body of water in 1929, during Japan's 35-year colonial rule of Korea.

Pressure on Richmond has been intense from both sides of the debate, with Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-young personally visiting Gov. McAuliffe at the Executive Mansion in support of the bill.

Japan is Virginia's second largest foreign-direct investor, with Japanese companies employing more than 13,000 people within the Commonwealth.

According to the Associated Press, Japanese ambassador Kenichiro Sasae also warned that the bill could generate backlash within the Japanese community, writing "strong economic ties… may be damaged if the bills are to be enacted."

The one-sentence bill, when enacted as early as July, will require "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."

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