A legislative panel at the Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday passed a bill requiring new school textbooks to use the Korean name East Sea as well as the Sea of Japan.
The 5-4 vote in the education subcommittee kept alive the Korean-American community's hopes that Virginia will become the first U.S. state to introduce legislation to identify the waters between Korea and Japan as the East Sea.
The state's Senate approved a similar bill last week.
Koreans contend the Sea of Japan, still more popular in the international community, is a legacy of Japan's imperialistic past. The East Sea is historically the correct name, they say.
If the legislation passes the House, the General Assembly will send it to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature. It will apparently put the governor in a dilemma.
He made a campaign pledge to support the move, apparently in a bid to gain votes from ethnic Koreans. There are many Korean residents in the state, especially in northern Virginia.
For instance, Fairfax County, with 1.1 million people, has one of the largest Korean populations among U.S. counties.
As a governor, however, McAuliffe faces another grim reality -- a possible negative effect on investment from Japan. The Japanese Embassy in Washington has ratcheted up its pressure on him.
In a recent letter to the governor, Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae said there could be an impact on Japan-Virginia ties if the legislation goes into effect. Japan is the second largest source of foreign direct investment in Virginia, with almost $1 billion in the last five years, said the ambassador. (Yonhap)