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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #213: May 6, 2004

Japan rightists en route to Dokdo

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan rightists en route to Dokdo"
The Korea Herald


The article reports that a number of Japanese "right wing extremists" set off to land on one of the group of islands collectively known as Takeshima which, apparently, Koreans call "Dokdo".

The real intention of the article, however, is fairly obvious. It is to recite the Korean government's assertion that the islands are theirs, and not Japan's. (For matter of clarity only without any implied intentions, they shall be referred to in this review as Takeshima/Dokdo where deemed appropriate.)

There are reckless people in any society. In March, a bunch of Chinese set out to land on one of Senkaku islands, claiming that the islands are Chinese territory. Japan's coast guard arrested the activists and sent them back to China, which was the customary procedure for a simple illegal entry. There was a report that they destroyed an uninhabited run-down shack, but was considered too minor to initiate the hassle of pressing criminal charges.

In the case of the Japanese "extremists" this time as reported, they are reckless in the sense to confront the guns of Korean maritime police whatever their motive might be.

Takeshima islands are located in the Japan Sea midway between the "mainlands" of both countries. The area of all the islets combined is only 0.25, less than one-tenth the size of Central Park in New York City which is 3.4 The islands themselves do not have much use, except for providing shelters to small fishing boats during a storm, for which the significance was greater in the days when the danger was more real. It was the development in the recent era of the international laws covering the seas and its floors surrounding land, which effectively provided certain rights for their utilization that substantially enhanced the importance of these small islands, in many cases only a little more than a rock.

As there are some points raised in the article leading to Korea's assertion that the islets are theirs, it might be worthwhile to compare notes.

The article says that the first historical references to the islands were in Korean documents referring to the islands as a part of a Korean state known as "Usankuk" (Ullung Island), which was incorporated into the Korean Silla Dynasty in 512 AD. This is indeed a fact recognized by scholars of both countries, but the problem is that there is no indication that "Usankuk" included the Takeshima/Dokdo islands, some 100 kilometers away. In fact, there is a record in a fifteenth century Korean document describing that there were 15 families with the total of 87 people living on the island which Korea claims as Takeshima/Dokdo. As it is impossible to sustain the lives of 87 people on such a small islet even with the present day skills, it is more natural to assume that the portrayal is unlikely that of Takeshima/Dokdo.

Any "official" reference of either government without any ambiguity to the islets it refers to appears in a Japanese document in 1618, which assigned the governance of Takeshima to one of the local lords in the region close to Takeshima.

In 1696, as a result of negotiations between Japan and Korea concerning fishing in the vicinity of Ullung Island the Japanese government, Shogun at the time, prohibited passage of Japanese vessels to Ullung Island, but not to Takeshima, an indication of both governments recognizing the Ullung Island and Takeshima/Dokdo to be a separate entity.

In 1905, Japan reaffirmed its intention to possess Takeshima by a Cabinet decision, followed by a notification by Shimane Prefecture officially incorporating Takeshima as part of the Prefecture. It was publicized in the official bulletin and reported in newspapers, to which the Korean government expressed no objection, or even interest.

It is clearly stated In the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 that Japan did not include Takeshima in the definition of "Korea", when the independence of Korea was approved and all rights, titles and rights of claim was renounced. This means that Takeshima remained as Japan's territory when Korea became independent. In fact, in the draft of the peace treaty dated December 29, 1949, formulated by the US and its allies, Takeshima was explicitly mentioned as a part of Japanese territory. The direct reference was dropped in the treaty eventually signed for the reason that the rocks were too insignificant to be mentioned in the prestigious document, and there was no indication of change of policy by the US and its allies.

In July 1954, Korea suddenly sent a number of armed security guards to Takeshima to occupy it. Japan proposed, in September that year, to submit the issue to the International Court of Justice, but it was rejected by Korea. The scale of the Korean security guards there continued to increase since then, including construction of lodgings, a lighthouse, and a monitoring facility.

That said, the actions of the "extremists" as reported would hardly win international support. The best it could do is to attract the attention of the Japanese people, probably at the cost of increased resentment towards Japan among Korean people, how unjustifiable it may be.

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