Alexandr Ivanov – South Korea-Japanese Relations Through the Prism of the Territorial Dispute over the Island of Dokdo (Takeshima)

Recently, in political circles is widely exaggerated the issue of disputed territories. Each time a scheduled visit of Russian leaders in Japan, there is always looked forward to negotiate with Russia over the transfer of Kuril Islands to Japan. During a recent visit to Japan, Prime Minister Putin and his talks with Taro Aso, the Japanese public was is appointed by the fact that the leaders of the two countries have failed to achieve a positive result for Japan. But behind all the hype around the Kuril Islands, few Russians have heard of another territory, which seriously claimed by Japan – the island of Dokdo (Takeshima).

Japan and South Korea are the closest geographical neighbors, which have close historical and cultural ties. But in politics, the two States remain far apart because of the complex moral and psychological climate in the modern relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan, which has quite a long history. One of the reasons for the very cool Korean-Japanese relations is a territorial issue around a small rocky island Dokdo (Takeshima), located 90 km east of the Korean island of Ulleungdo and 157 km north of the Japanese island of Oki.

For a long time the two leaders maintain the status quo on the issue of ownership of the island Dokdo. In preparing the Treaty on the basic relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan, the Japanese government has tried to make it point to the presence of mutual recognition of the territorial dispute over Dokdo Island. These proposals were rejected by the South Korean side, and they were not included in the official text of the agreement. Subsequently, South Korea and Japan, so as not to create unnecessary tension in bilateral relations in various negotiations have tried not to touch this issue. But since 1994, when the UN adopted the Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which Korea and Japan announced a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, the Japanese government began a more aggressive policy, demanding the return of the island Dokdo. For example, in February 1996 Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda protesting against the construction of the South Korean government wharf on the island of Dokdo, appeared on television with the announcement that this small piece of land is part of Japanese territory. This provoked an angry reaction from official circles in South Korea, and announced that Dokdo Island is historically and under international law belongs to Korea. Within a few days at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul held a demonstration in which protesters are demanding an official apology from the Japanese government, burned Japanese flags and portraits depicting the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan. In turn, in July 1996 in front of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Tokyo a terrorist act was committed by the Japanese ultra-nationalist  of youth organization “Oh-koku Kinseyto”, which stands for the transfer of the island of Dokdo under the jurisdiction of Japan. Despite the fact that the Japanese government had apologized and expressed regret about the incident, the event reflects the real mood of the Japanese (more than 70% of Japanese believe that the island of Dokdo is Japanese) in the matter of Dokdo island, considering Japan’s eligible claim to that territory. In August and September 2003 the Japanese government sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea’s official protest with the requirement to review the decision to issue postage stamps depicting the flora and fauna of the island of Dokdo.

Meanwhile, South Korea did not enter into polemics with the Japanese authorities about the ownership of the island Dokdo until now. the Korean government tried not to spoil relations with Japan and kept silent on the sovereignty of the island, considering that this problem will be solved by itself. But after, when in March 2005 Legislature Japanese Shimane Prefecture has decided to consider February 22 “Takeshima Day”, the South Korean authorities decided to abandon the methods of “quiet diplomacy” to resolve bilateral disputes with the Japanese government. Following statements by the authorities of Shimane Prefecture, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea Ban Ki-moon has canceled his visit to Japan and said that South Korea is ready to insist on sovereignty over Dokdo, even if it leads to a deterioration of relations with Japan. President Roh Moo-hyun, in his speech on March 23 stated that “it will be hard to resist attempts to distort the history of Japan’s bilateral relations.” Roh Moo-hyun stressed that such actions by the authorities of Shimane Prefecture, which is impossible without the support of the central government, showed non-recognition of the fact of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule. Against the background of sharply strained relations between South Korea and Japan in relation to new claims on the Japanese island of Dokdo, Minister for the unification of Korea Chung Yong expressed a negative position of Seoul on the possible inclusion of Japan in the UN Security Council on the rights of a permanent member. Statements by officials in Japan have given occasion to Korea for a variety of anti-Japanese campaigns. In response to the decision of the authorities of Shimane Prefecture Parliament of South Korean city of Masan passed a decree stipulating the territorial jurisdiction of the municipality masanskogo over the island of Tsushima. After the prefectural government adopted a selebration project of “Takeshima Day” in 2006, the Legislature North Gyeongsang Province has decided to break twin relations with Japan Prefecture. In addition, the state media were instructed to call the Japanese island of Tsushima only in Korean maner – Temado. Ethics Committee on Information at the Ministry of Information Korea demanded that South Korean ISPs to close sites pro-Japanese orientation, which may compromise the physical and moral health of young people by distorting historical facts and inciting ethnic hatred. Naturally, the aggravation of the DPRK-Japan relations could not but reflect on the views of Koreans in Japan. The survey of Koreans with respect to the main security threats in South Korea more than 37% of respondents replied that the greatest danger comes from Japan. At the same time, North Korea, with which South Korea is still at war, as the main threat to the security of the country saw 28.6% of respondents. According to the Korean analysts, such changes against Koreans in Japan were mainly a result of its territorial claims to the island of Dokdo. Outdoor statements of Japanese official concerning ownership of the island Dokdo encouraged community organizations to carry out anti-Japanese Korean campaign to develop a negative opinion toward Japan. Thus, the “Association of Korean Hangul letters” after the Japanese government expressed its territorial claim to Dokdo Island, South Korea urged citizens not to buy Japanese goods.

It is interesting that the international community on this issue leans in favor of Japan. For example, on maps used by organizations such as NATO and the CIA within the boundaries of the island is marked Japan. In the gazette U.S. Pacific Command «Asia Pacific Defence Forum», also reported that the Dokdo Island belongs to Japan’s territory.

At the official level, most international organizations do recognize the divisiveness of this territory, and therefore on many maps produced by the island of Dokdo is not indicated for someone else’s jurisdiction, or do not put on the map.

However, considering this question, we must pay attention to the historical events that took place around the island of Dokdo. There are a number of historical annals, fixing that Dokdo island ruled by the ancient Korean states. Korean chronicle “SGSG”, composed in the XII century, indicate that the islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo formed the so-called state Usanguk, which was subject to Silla in 512, and ruled Silla commander and Sabu (512).

The data indicate the geographical origin of the island Dokdo Korea found in the annals of “Kores” (“History of Goryeo”), as well as in the annals of “Thedzhon sillok” (“Historical Chronicle of King Thedzhona”) relating to the early period of the Joseon government. Official documents of King Sukchona report that in 1693 the Korean fishermen protested against poaching near the Japanese islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo. In response to this protest in 1696, the Tokugawa government sent an official letter to the governor of Tsushima demanding to stop illegal fishing by Japanese fishermen around the islands. After the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government in 1869 and 1877. confirmed that the island of Dokdo is Korean land and has no relation to Japan.

By royal decree number 41 of 1900 the governor of the island of Ulleungdo were instructed to operate as two other islands of Dokdo and Chukto. In addition, the Japanese archival documents and maps clearly indicate that the island of Dokdo belongs to Korea. Thus, the “Complete Map of the eight provinces,” created by order of the Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi before the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, shows that Dokdo Island belongs to Korea.

In the annals of the Japanese island of Dokdo was first mentioned in 1667. Compiled Saito Hosenom “Onsyu sicho GOK” (“Study of the province of Oki”), reported that the uninhabited islands Takeshima belongs to Korea.

Harbinger of the requirements for operators of Dokdo was a decree in 1905, Shimane Prefect, resulting in the island came under the control of the governor of the island of Oki, and became known as Takeshima. As the name Takeshima (Jap. 竹島 «Bamboo Island”), the Japanese version, he should have been covered with thickets of bamboo. But at the sight on the Takeshima no hint of any vegetation on the island. Moreover, it is a bare rocky cliff. Therefore, given the homonymy Japanese word “bamboo” and “mountain peak”, i.e. ‘Take’ the name of the island was originally translated as “a mountainous island» (岳島). But here the interesting fact. that the Korean word “mountain peak” and “Bamboo” has the same root as the sound-tags (respectively ‘koktegi’ and ‘maktegi’). When you select the ‘tegs’ in a single word, it is possible to carry out the etymology of the modern Japanese word ‘Take’. On the other hand, the Japanese word sim (“island”) has its origin in the Korean catfish. Thus, the Japanese, calling the island of Dokdo as Takeshima, and thereby, returning his Korean  title, implicitly emphasized its ancient affiliation Korea, although hieroglyphically recorded incorrectly.

In 1905, Korea was under Japanese protectorate, and thus the Korean government almost lost the opportunity to express a diplomatic protest against the aggressive actions of Japan. In the end, Japan annexed Korea, resulting in the entire territory of the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding islands came under the control of the Japanese governor-general.

In 1946, after the Second World War and Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonialism, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Japan, issued a directive number 677, on which a part of Japanese territory consisted of 4 large and about 1,000 smaller islands are listed in this document. The exception to this was the island of Ulleungdo, Jeju (Kuelpart) and Dokdo (rock Liankur). Taking into account that the directive was adopted without the participation of Korean diplomacy (in 1946, Korea was still under the control of the Soviet and American military administration), the fact that Dokdo is Korean territory, was recognized at the international level. In addition, the map used by the Allied High Command in 1946, which identified areas of administrative jurisdiction of Japan and Korea, Dokdo Island has been marked as falling under the jurisdiction of Korea, though under the title “Take.” After the proclamation of the Republic of Korea, August 15, 1948 the U.S. gave full authority throughout the national territory, including Dokdo, the government of South Korea.

Despite this, long before the signing of the 1952 San Francisco Treaty between Japan and the Allies, marking the end of the 2nd World War, initiated by Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida of Japan in a campaign for the transfer of the island of Dokdo under the jurisdiction of the Japanese. According to the San Francisco Treaty, Japan recognized the independence of Korea and renounced all claims to it, and undertook to convey the Korean government Jeju island, Ulleungdo, Komundo and others. The draft agreement was called the island of Dokdo, along with other islands, required for the transfer of Korea by Japan. However, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida S. made every effort to ensure that the text of the agreement on the island of Dokdo was mentioned as a Japanese territory. As a result of national efforts Dokdo Island has been removed from the list of territories to be returned to Korea. But be that as it may, the Japanese failed to get a mention in the peace treaty Dokdo Island as part of Japanese territory. Nevertheless, the U.S. government issued a separate document, which reported that the island prznaetsya Japanese territories and referred to as “Takeshima.”

It is based on the official text of a peace treaty in 1952, Japan insisted on the recognition of Dokdo Island as part of its territory. In his claim to the island of Dokdo, Japan referred to paragraph “a” of the second article of the peace treaty, where there is no clear indication that Japan renounces sovereignty over the island of Dokdo. Thus, Japan believes that the Korean peninsula was liberated from Japanese occupation, September 2, 1945, when the Act was signed on its unconditional surrender and occupation of Korea lasted until April 28, 1952 On this basis, according to the Japanese side, San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed by Japan with the Allies, is a fundamental document defining the status of the Korean Peninsula and the Republic of Korea, and it is on this basis shall be determined by the territorial ownership of the island Dokdo. Actually, on the basis of this treaty, the Japanese government has repeatedly expressed an official protest the South Korean authorities in connection with the construction of the building on the Dokdo protection of the marine police jetty and helipad.

In addition, the Japanese government considers legitimate the transition in 1905, the island of Dokdo under the jurisdiction of Japan, believing that a protectorate over Korea does not mean any violent action against the Korean government, and therefore the transfer of the territories in favor of the Japanese was of voluntary nature. Thus, the Japanese side insisted that the reform of the administrative-territorial division of Japan on February 22, 1905, which resulted in the island of Dokdo was a part of Shimane Prefecture, in line at the time of international law. Moreover, Japan’s sovereignty over the island of Dokdo confirmed continuous administration of the island for a long time after its entry into the Japanese empire. Such approval of the Japanese side can be seen not only as an attempt to assert their claim to the island of Dokdo, but also to justify their aggressive methods of settling international disputes, including the occupation of Korea.

In recent years, some senior government officials in Japan often claims about the special destiny of the Japanese nation and the legality of the occupation of the Korean Peninsula, causing some concern in political circles in Korea, despite the fact that representatives of the Japanese government often has to apologize for such statements under the pressure of international criticism . Many Korean political analysts believe that the statements regarding the legitimacy of Japan’s actions against Korea in the early XX century, reflects the hidden intentions of the Japanese government in the revival of Japanese imperialism. Demonstrative visit to the temple, Prime Minister Koizumi Dzyunichiro Shinto Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals are buried the period of the 2nd World War, the publication of textbooks that distort the history of East Asia, coupled with Japan’s territorial claims to the island of Dokdo, negate all the apologies, previously brought by the Japanese leadership its neighbors.

The Japanese government has clearly understood that in the absence of explicit historical and legal evidence in a dispute over Dokdo Island belongs, and assuming that the opportunity to address this issue through peaceful means is minimal, however, has set its goal to start negotiations on the issue of Dokdo Island. The Korean government believes that the island of Dokdo can’t be the subject of negotiations, because “for Korea, there are no territorial issues.” In addition, for the Koreans who survived the moral humiliation of Japan, which is in negotiations is going to rely on documents later determined the dependence of Korea from the Japanese emperor, this question is crucial.

For Japan, the principle is that in the wake of “forgotten” to raise nationalism “territorial issue” concerning the way, not only the Korean island Dokdo, but Russian and Chinese Kuril Pescadores (Penghu Islands), thereby increasing its political reputation in East Asia .

Translated by Marina Osipova (APIR Center)

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