How Korea gained ‘East Sea’ success


The increasing power of Korean communities in the United States and their sophisticated strategies are behind the recent feat of getting several U.S. state legislatures to pass so-called “East Sea” bills, according to observers Tuesday.

Under the bills, the body of water between Korea and Japan will also be identified as the East Sea unlike in the past when it was only referred to as the Sea of Japan, the title which the former regards as a remnant of Japan’s colonial rule of Korea (1910-45).

After the Virginia Senate gave a green light to a bill early this month, the Georgia Senate followed suit. Other states have made similar moves, including New York, New Jersey and California.

“First and foremost, the number of Korean-Americans is much bigger than that of Japanese-Americans at 1.7 million versus 1.3 million. Hence, the Korean side holds stronger voting power,” said Professor Shin Yul at Myongji University.

“In addition, Korea resorted to appropriate tactics by asking for the use of both the East Sea and the Sea of Japan together, instead of adopting the past way of trying to force the sole designation of East Sea.”

Shin also praised the smart approach taken ― the campaigners raised it as an educational issue, not a diplomatic one, so congressmen were able to easily accept it.

Originally, the number of Japanese-Americans outnumbered that of Korean-Americans, but that changed in the early 1990s. Against this backdrop, many other communities are expected to take part in campaigns to convince states to adopt the East Sea designation as well as Sea of Japan, despite Tokyo’s desperate lobbying to block such efforts.

Virginia, where the movement started, is one of the most lopsided U.S. states when it comes to the relative sizes of the respective populations, with Korean-American voters outweighing the number of Japanese-Americans 82,000 to 19,000.

Georgia also has something to do with Korea, as the southern state has been one of the most popular U.S. cities for the Asian country’s immigrants. Plus, Korea’s top automaker, Hyundai Motor Group, has an affiliate there.

In California, about half-a-million Korean-Americans reside.

“Only a spark was needed to produce a flame in the East Sea initiative, as the Sea of Japan reminds people of the imperialist Japan of the early 20th century. The East Sea name is required to be added and more and more U.S. politicians seem to buy the idea,” said a Korean-American in New York.

source: Korea Times


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