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McAuliffe to be 'off the hook' over Sea of Japan with floor amendment

Map of the disputed water, created for Dispute over the name of the Sea of Japan. No name for the water to reflect the dispute. Based on PD map data.

According to the Washington Post on Tuesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe may soon be "off the Hook" with his promise made to Korean-Americans who wanted Virginia textbooks to note the Sea of Japan was also known as the East Sea.

Del. R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta) has written a floor amendment that will certainly derail the legislation already going through the House and Senate that would change the Commonwealth's textbooks.

To add strength to Landes' amendment, the Black Caucus has given its support to the amendment because it also requires that textbooks in the state also give "due acknowledgement" to the “cultural contributions by African Americans and Virginia Indians.”

The issue over the name given to the sea between Japan and South Korea has been in the news for some time now, and Korean-American activists say it is a matter of their national pride because the Sea of Japan is reminiscent to many of Japanese imperialism.

Governor McAuliffe gave Korean-American activists a written promise to back a measure changing Virginia's textbooks to reflect the Sea of Japan's name as also being called the East Sea during last year’s campaign, and quickly put himself and the Commonwealth at odds with Japan, one of the state's major trading partners.

The original textbook bill that passed through the House of Delegates was only two lines in length and stated: "all textbooks approved by the Board of Education ... when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it is also called the East Sea."

Both chambers of the Legislature passed their own versions of the textbook bill with wide margins, but the legislation has since run into a roadblock. Monday was the deadline for the bills to come out of committees. Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) purposely allowed the House bill to die in the committee she leads.

Lucas pointed out her reasons for allowing the house bill to die in committee was because it catered to the concerns of Korean-Americans while ignoring the sensitivities of African-Americans. She cited a 2003 bill that failed. It would have changed state textbooks to reflect the cultural contributions and history of the state's minorities.

Landes, the chairman of the House Education committee, cited his reasons for objecting to the bills, saying he would predict that passage of the textbook bill would open the door to future legislation from other minority groups to want their territorial disputes added to the textbooks.

Del. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond), who also supports Landes' bill said “The point of the amendment is to make everybody aware — you need to realize the precedent you’re setting. This was one of many geographical disputes or instances where one group of people’s history is sort of subordinated to another’s. And I thought the right thing to do was to fix it for everybody.”

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