July 1, 2014 – Virginia Law Changes Textbooks For Political Appeasement

As of this date, July 1, 2014, a law passed on March 31 in Virginia required that any textbook approved by the Virginia Board of Education must note that the Sea of Japan is also referred to as the East Sea. In a classic case of politics affecting history, the Virginia legislature bowed to the demands of Northern Virginia’s Korean community agreeing to a change in state textbooks. This change reflects a promise that the governor, Terry McAuliffe, made while campaigning for the position. As noted by The Washington Post, “The promise was important to Northern Virginia’s large Korean American community, who see the Sea of Japan designation as a painful relic of Japanese occupation.”


Originally, it was thought that the legislation would not be a problem. But then Japan officially weighed in, warning that the dual name designation could affect trade with Japan, which has large investment interests in Virginia, including, as of 2012, some 250 Japanese companies employing 13,000 Virginians.

But Korea could boast of something even more important to politicians, which is a large, politically active community of voters. In fact, 2012 data showed Virginia to be home to some 82,000 Korean-Americans, greatly outnumbering the state’s 19,000 ethnic Japanese.

The legislature approved the law with the proviso that “the provisions of this act shall not affect any textbook approved by the Board of Education prior to July 1, 2014.”


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