Va. Governor in Deep Trouble Over ... Sea of Japan?

Textbook change sparks international incident
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2014 11:15 AM CST
Va. Governor in Deep Trouble Over ... Sea of Japan?
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gestures during an interview in his office at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Jan. 17, 2014.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

More than 100 people crammed the hallways outside a small subcommittee meeting room in Virginia's legislature yesterday, cheering as the bill under consideration moved forward, the Daily Press reports. The bill that raised such passion sounds innocuous enough—it would require textbooks to mention that the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea. But it's become the focal point of an unlikely political fight, international incident, and major headache for Terry McAuliffe. The governor promised the bill while campaigning, to please Korean-Americans who see the name as a reminder of Japanese imperialism.

Northern Virginia has a fairly large Korean population, so the bill quickly gathered support. But then Japan, Virginia's second-largest foreign investor, sent McAuliffe a letter warning that "economic ties ... may be damaged" by the move, and hired lobbyists to press the case. Korea responded by dispatching its own ambassador. McAuliffe's advisers are privately asking lawmakers to kill the bill, the Washington Post reports, but Republicans intend to push it through, essentially just to make McAuliffe, a Democrat, sweat over whether or not to sign it. "It's time for them to learn you can't please everybody all the time," one Republican said. (More Virginia stories.)

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