East Sea recognized in Maryland

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East Sea recognized in Maryland

A U.S. county has asked local public school teachers to let their students know that the body of water between Korea and Japan is referred to by two names - “East Sea” and “Sea of Japan.”

The assistant superintendent of Anne Arundel County in Maryland, Andrea M. Kane, issued the guidelines to local teachers on Aug. 15.

She also emphasized the importance of explaining the naming dispute surrounding the sea, which has long been a bone of contention between Korea and Japan.

“When teaching about the geography of East Asia,” Kane wrote, “if maps in texts you are using in your classrooms only show Sea of Japan, explain the issue to students and that in disputes about geographic names, the National Geographic Society recommends including the alternative name in parenthesis [sic].”

The assistant superintendent, who works on curriculum and instruction in the county of 540,000 people, also pointed to the recent trend of using both names.

“The National Geographic Society and many other cartographic institutions, atlases and textbooks are now labeling maps of the region of East Sea [sic] with both names - Sea of Japan and East Sea,” Kane wrote.

The county’s order is seen as the result of relentless efforts by different Korean organizations to raise awareness about the debate.

Korea says that the “Sea of Japan” name did not become common until the country was under Japanese colonial rule, at which time it had no ability to influence international affairs.

Among the groups that contributed the most to the movement is the Voice of Korean Americans, which has aggressively campaigned to publicize the name advocated by the Korean government.

The guideline letter also acknowledged such efforts: “Spurred by a letter-writing campaign among South Korean students and the work of the South Korean government to lobby the United Nations, the International Hydrologic Association and cartographers … are asking that students around the world learn that this body of water is also known as the East Sea.”

In a promising sign for the Korean side, Tim Hugo, a senior Republican member of the Virginia House, said in July that he will introduce legislation in next year’s session to mandate that all future textbooks approved by the Virginia Board of Education recognize the body of water as both the East Sea and the Sea of Japan.



BY PARK EUN-JEE, PARK SUNG-HEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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