Quirky McAuliffe pledge sparks international debate

ANNANDALE,{ }Va. (WJLA) -{ }At Ye Chon in Annandale, a snapshot of a vibrant community.

“People think there are 80,000 to 90,000 Koreans in the state of Virginia, but we think there are more like 150,000,” Peter Kim says.{ }

Kim leads an organization called Voice of Korean Americans. At a table with friends, the discussion quickly turns to what’s in a name. Kim is advocating for an off-beat campaign promise by then-gubernatorial candidate and now Gov. Terry McAuliffe.{ }

On the trail, McAuliffe said he intended to add the name East Sea to text books mentioning Sea of Japan. The latter name is a sore spot for Koreans who live under Japanese military occupation for roughly 36 years.{ }

“Whenever we hear the name ‘Sea of Japan,’ it brings a terrible history,” Kim says.{ }

Now McAuliffe’s small promise is sparking passion among Koreans who are for the change, and irritation among Japanese leaders who say the move could hurt relations.{ }

POLITICO’S James Hohmann says it was perhaps McAuliffe’s agreeable nature that put him in an international tight spot.{ }

“I think it’s something he thought would get him votes and support and it probably did,” Hohmann says.{ }

The bill could hit McAuliffe’s desk this session, forcing the governor to cross the Rubicon, or in this case, a strait in Asia.{ }

“Now, he’ll sort of have to make that choice,” Hohmann says.{ }

Kim says it’s an issue for all Virginians, regardless of nationality.{ }

“All we’re saying is ‘Hey guys, this sea is under dispute,' ” Kim says. It’s a debate that may be settled on the other side of the world.