‘East Sea’ bill passes Virginia legislative panel, headed to floor

By Shin Hyon-hee

Seoul officials, U.S. media say approval likely

  • Published : Feb 4, 2014 - 20:22
  • Updated : Feb 4, 2014 - 20:22
A legislative committee at Virginia’s lower house on Monday endorsed a bill calling for the use of the name “the East Sea” in school textbooks together with “the Sea of Japan” as the state’s Korean community intensifies its longtime campaign.

The House of Delegates’ education panel passed 18 to 3, sending the bill to the plenary session expected to vote Thursday. It requires new school textbooks to note that the body of water between Korea and Japan is also called the East Sea.

The legislation, already approved by the Senate, is likely to win the floor given the chamber’s robust support, according to Seoul officials and local media there. Once passed, it will arrive on the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“He has been very clear in his statements that if the legislation passes the General Assembly, he will sign it,” McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy told Yonhap.

With Koreans forming a key voting bloc, the Democratic governor pledged to support the East Sea name crusade while on the campaign trail.

But the issue has become a nuisance for McAuliffe, with the campaign heating up and Tokyo stepping in, engaging in large-scale lobbying. His advisers reportedly requested lawmakers to kill the bill.

Japan is one of Virginia’s largest trade partners and investors.

The Japanese Embassy hired four lobbyists from McGuireWoods LLP, a major law firm. Under a $75,000 deal, the company was tasked with developing “white papers and talking points on why the ‘East Sea’ proposal is bad public policy,” the recently disclosed contract reads.

In late December, Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae sent a letter to the governor even before his swearing in, warning that the legislation would damage business ties between the two sides. The envoy also traveled to Richmond recently, apparently to press McAuliffe and legislative leaders.

Seoul, for its part, boosted support for the Korean community’s drive. Ambassador Ahn Ho-young also visited the governor on Jan. 31 to discuss the bill and his planned trip to Seoul this year.

By Shin Hyon-hee (