From left: Dongchan Kim (President, KACE), Assemblyman Charles Lavine, John Park (President, KACEC), Assemblyman Ron Kim, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, Sung-ki Min (President, KAAGNY), and Kichol Kim (Vice Chair, NUAC Eastern Conference)

On February 10th, 2014, a press conference about the recent New York State Senate/Assembly legislation requiring the placement of “East Sea” alongside the “Sea of Japan” was held at the State Capitol press room. This press conference was organized by Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, and Assemblyman Ron Kim. Sung-ki Min (President, Korean American Association of Greater New York), Kichol Kim (Vice Chair, Eastern Conference, National Unification Advisory Council), John Park (President, Korean American Community Empowerment Council), and Dongchan Kim (President, Korean American Civic Empowerment) were present to represent the interests of the Korean American community.

On February 7th, 2014, Senator Stavisky sponsored a legislation that revises the current state education law to include a clause that mandates the referencing the “Sea of Japan” as also the “East Sea” in all textbooks. Assemblyman Braunstein proceeded to sponsor the same legislation in the State Assembly on February 10th. Therefore, Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE) and other Korean American organizations will begin a grassroots campaign for these two legislation.

The legislators stated that the main purpose of the legislation is to provide a channel for dialogue among students about the “Sea of Japan” controversy and further their views about global conflicts.

Assemblyman Braunstein acknowledged that this issue is very sensitive to many communities including the Korean Americans. He also added that the name “Sea of Japan” is a painful reminder of the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, and as an elected official representing his constituents, he wanted to make sure that the students were aware about this debacle as well. He also stated the recent passage of a similar law in the Commonwealth of Virginia and his hope that other states will follow Virginia and New York’s stride.

Senator Stavisky commented that about 176,000 Asian Americans reside in her district and that the “East Sea” issue was very important to them. Educating students the students about the disputed body of water as the “Sea of Japan” is a painful reminder of the unresolved remainder of the Japanese colonization of East Asia. She strongly stated that this legislation is not an anti-Japanese law. She referred to the various streets in New York City and other municipalities that have two names, stating that there is no problem in co-naming areas. She expressed her wishes for an increased dialogue and understanding in students through this legislation.

Assemblyman Kim stated that this legislation will make his Korean American and other Asian constituents very proud, and that he was proud to stand up for their values. He also thanked the two legislators for taking initiative on this important issue.


From left: John Park (President, KACEC), Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, Kichol Kim (Vice Chair, NUAC Eastern Conference), Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Sung-ki Min (President, KAAGNY), Dongchan Kim (President, KACE), and Assemblyman Ron Kim

Other elected officials from areas with large Korean American communities added their words of support.

Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, representing a portion of Nassau County, stated that she supports this legislation because she believes that it will widen the students’ view of the world. Students must understand history to see the world and pursue the right goals, and to prevent history from repeating itself, she felt that this legislation was necessary.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, representing Queens County, stated that we all must be aware of our surroundings, understanding of our neighbors, and have an understanding of their cultures and histories. She hoped that this legislation will increase the students’ understanding of both history and culture.

Mr. Min stated that a coalition of Korean Americans will be started to spearhead the effort to support this legislation. Mr. Kichol Kim stated that he was present to correct a false mark placed on history and all Korean Americans must unite to make this happen. Mr. Park added that this is not a matter of deciding ownership of the sea, but a matter of restoring its original name. Mr. Dongchan Kim stated that the co-naming of the sea is the community’s best option and this marks the start of getting back what was taken away from us under the Japanese occupation.

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