Reader Adam Pallotto informs me that the Virginia legislature has just passed a bill providing,

That all textbooks approved by the Board of Education pursuant to § 22.1-238 of the Code of Virginia, when referring to the Sea of Japan, shall note that it is also referred to as the East Sea.

The bill passed the House by 81-15 and had earlier passed the Senate by 32-4; it now goes to the governor. Here’s the backstory, according to Reuters:

It was a significant victory for vocal campaigners among Virginia’s 82,000 Korean-Americans, who greatly outnumber the state’s 19,000 ethnic Japanese and showed up in the hundreds to cheer the vote in the state capital, Richmond.

The vote followed intense lobbying not only by Korean-Americans but the governments of South Korea and Japan more than 7,000 miles away, which have been squabbling for years over the name for the sea, which separates their countries….

It is a source of intense bitterness for Koreans that the name “Sea of Japan” was standardized worldwide while Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, after the International Hydrographic Organization, or IHO, published its definitive “Limits of the Oceans and the Seas” in 1929.

The “Sea of Japan” is apparently the dominant name (and the only one I’ve ever heard about), but the National Geographic Society “said it began including ‘East Sea’ in parentheses after the Sea of Japan in its maps in 1999 in response to growing international use of the term.”

My correspondent asked:

From an ideological (libertarian) standpoint, I ask how is this the proper role of government?

Well, if the government is going to have government-run schools, it has to decide how to run them. In particular, someone has to make a decision about what is taught, whether it’s a teacher, a principal, a local school board, or the state board; all are government actors.

And indeed, when it comes to textbooks, low-level government officials may have little power to insist that something be included in them. If Virginia officials think that it makes sense to include both names — a not implausible position, since if both names are used, it might make sense for students to learn both names — then that requirement would pretty much have to be specified at the state level, if I understand the textbook market correctly.

My correspondent, however, also asked:

From a practical (taxpayer) standpoint, I ask if there are no more pressing issues for my state legislature to address?

Yes, I think there probably are.