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Dispute Over ‘Sea Of Japan’ Enters The New York State Political Ring

Korean-Americans Approve Of Bill That Bans Textbooks Using The Term

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Now, a lesson in geography, and politics.

New York lawmakers are taking sides in a dispute over what to call a body of water, 6,000 miles away. CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

Korean pride was on display in Flushing, Queens on Friday, as is the growing political influence of the region’s quarter-million Korean-Americans.

The State Senate has approved a bill that would outlaw the purchase of public school textbooks that label the body of water between Japan and the Koreas as the “Sea of Japan,” and only allow the sale of textbooks that also refer to it as the “East Sea.”

“We have to teach our children accurate education. Factual history is very important,” said Christine Colligan of the Korean-American Parents Association of Greater New York.

Colligan said Koreans are slighted by the term “Sea of Japan.”

“In Korean, it’s ‘donghae,’ means “east sea,” she said.

“East sea” is what Koreans call the body of water. The other name brings up memories of Japan’s occupation of Korea last century.

It might seem like a tempest in a teapot, but it got the attention of Democratic State Sen. Tony Avella, whose district includes a large number of Korean-Americans.

“It is hugely important to the Korean-Americans here and actually Koreans in South Korea. I’ve been on Korean television three times already, haha!” Avella said.

In response, the Japanese government has produced a slick video defending the name “Sea of Japan.”

“It was found that 50 out of 58 maps published in the 19th century used the name ‘Sea of japan,'” the video says.

A Japanese blog accuses Avella of “pandering” to Korean-Americans.

“People have looked at this independently, looked at international law, and recognized it should also be known as the ‘East Sea,'” Avella said.

With so many textbooks sold in New York, there’s no doubt publishers will comply if the bill becomes law, Aiello reported.

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