Virginia Governor in Hot Water in Asia

POLITICS

Virginia’s governor is in hot water with Korean American voters and Japan’s trade delegation. At issue: a body of water more than 7,000 miles away. Should Virginia’s school textbooks recognize the “Sea of Japan” or “Sea of Japan/East Sea”? (Washington Post)

What do Nat Geo’s cartographers call the sea?

This gorgeous view of the disputed sea in East Asia was taken by NASA's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) Project in 2002. Image courtesy the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

This gorgeous view of the disputed sea in East Asia was taken by NASA’s Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) Project in 2002.
Image courtesy the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

Discussion Ideas

  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe faces a dilemma about how Virginia school textbooks will identify the body of water separating the Korean Peninsula from the islands of Japan. Read through the short Washington Post article. Who are the stakeholders—in other words, what groups are trying to influence the governor? What are their positions? Read “This Day in Geographic History: End of First Sino-Japanese War” for some background on the dispute.
    • Background: Even though the conflict was called the Sino-Japanese War, it was really all about Korea. As far back as the 18th and 19th centuries, China, Japan, and Russia all vied for influence and control over the Korean Peninsula. As recently as 1945, the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule. The Koreas (the nations of North Korea and South Korea) had to fight hard to establish themselves as independent political entities, not puppets of their bigger neighbors.
    • Stakeholder—South Korea: South Korea has traditionally called the disputed body of water the “East Sea.” It has been pressuring international organizations to recognize the body of water as “Sea of Japan/East Sea.”
    • Stakeholder—Japan: Japan claims the body of water has been called the “Sea of Japan” for hundreds of years, and there’s no need to change it.

Read this terrific “real-world geography” profile or this equally terrific Nat Geo News article, both with Nat Geo’s own rock-star geographer, Juan Valdes, to get some ideas about what cartographers and geographers consider when naming and re-naming features.

Thanks to Karen G. for the heads-up on this great current-event connection!

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