New York lawmakers on Monday joined the Korean-American community in the East Sea naming efforts as they proposed a bill mandating that state textbooks use the Korea-backed name.
The legislation, sponsored by New York Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, would require all state textbooks to refer to the body of water between Japan and Korea as “the East Sea” and “the Sea of Japan.”
“These bills are intended to provide New York students with a more balanced and full picture of the history of East Asia,” Stavisky said at a press conference held in the New York State Capitol building in Albany. “It is often said that history is written by the victors. In this case, the widely known name for a body of water is a constant reminder for Koreans worldwide of an era of oppression, occupation and violence.”
Currently, “the Sea of Japan” is used by nearly all states in the U.S. Only last week, Virginia became the first U.S. state to pass a bill calling for the use of the name East Sea.
“New York State students should be taught that “the Sea of Japan” is not a universally accepted term and that there is legitimate international debate about whether “the East Sea” is a more appropriate name for that body of water,” said Braunstein.
He also thanked the leaders of the Korean community with whom he has worked to advance the issue and vowed to continue cooperating until the legislation is passed.
The Korean community in New York and New Jersey said last week that they will launch a committee to promote the name “East Sea” in textbooks across the U.S.
New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson proposed legislation that pushes for the use of the term “the East Sea” in official government matters, but only under the condition that no additional budget is used.
Koreans worldwide have been working to implement the use of the name “East Sea,” saying that the Japanese name is a relic of the country’s colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945.
The term “the Sea of Japan” has been predominantly used around the world since the International Hydrographic Organization adopted it in 1928 in its first edition of “Limits of the Oceans and Seas,” which contains information on maritime affairs.
Many Koreans claim that the coining of the term was unfair and disregarded Korea’s viewpoints on the matter, since the country was under Japanese rule at the time.
Records show that a variety of names were used to refer to the particular area before the 20th century. “Changing the Name of the Japan Sea” published by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan in 1994 shows that names such as “the Sea of Korea,” “the Oriental Ocean” and “the Sea of China” were used from the 17th to 19th century.
Last year, the National Archives of Korea said that a map drawn by a notable Japanese cartographer Shogo Mitsukuri in 1844 had labeled the water “the Joseon Sea,” referring to the Joseon era on the Korean Peninsula.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)