Wednesday, August 10, 2011

True story of Dokdo from a Korean Student (Student Corner)

I find this article quite interesting as this is written by a Korean young fresher man in college. I have taken out from the Korea's leading newspaper "The Korea Times".

In 1910, Korea fell into the hands of the Japanese forces. The colonization brought about huge cultural genocide. Many cultural artifacts were relocated to Japan and Koreans were banned from using their language. They were also educated under the Japanese system, and forced to change their Korean names into Japanese ones.

A century later in 2010, Japan apologized for this tragic event. Although they did not apologize for taking Korean women as sex slaves of the Japanese military or for the unlawfulness of the colonization, the apology seemed to mark the beginning of a warm relationship between the two countries.

Japan, however, once again turned its back on Korea a year after the apology.

In March, 2011, the Japanese government strengthened its ‘Takeshima policies’ amid the earthquake crisis by approving new textbooks for Japanese middle school students that claim Japan’s sovereignty over Takeshima (the Japanese name for Dokdo). The textbooks claim that Korea is illegally occupying Dokdo.

This act is unjustifiable and intolerable because history tells us otherwise.

Japan’s illegal intrusion of the island dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868). In 1693, in response to the protest of An Yong-bok, a famous Dokdo-related hero, against the intrusion, Edo Shogunate issued an official proclamation admitting Korea’s sovereignty over Dokdo.

In 1696, the Japanese Tottori clan admitted that Dokdo belongs to Korea. The Shogunate subsequently announced a travel ban to Dokdo and Ulleung Island to the residents of Japan. When the Japanese government undertook a nationwide mapping project during the era of the Meiji Restoration, some Japanese people requested that Dokdo be included as part of Japan’s territory. The Daijokan, or the Department of State in Japan, however, made its position clear and told them to "keep in mind that Takeshima and the other island have nothing to do with Japan.”

In October 1900, Korea declared Imperial Ordinance No. 41 in its Gazette No. 1716 against the intrusion of Japan. This ordinance held much significance as it was declared after the Korean government’s carefully planned investigation of Dokdo since the mid-1890s.

On February 22, 1905, Japan exploited Dokdo to secure victory over Russia by merging it into the Shimane Prefecture through military actions. The merge revealed one of the reasons for Japan’s persistent effort to claim Dokdo as its territory.

Japan did not hesitate to ignore or distort historical facts in order to claim Dokdo. A manuscript of Daedong Yeojido, one of the most detailed maps of Chosun, discovered on May 13, 2011, features Dokdo as Korean territory. Prior to the discovery, Japan had long insisted that Daedong Yeojido does not include Dokdo.

Japan has also asserted that it was not possible for Koreans to know the existence of Dokdo in the early days since it is too far from Ulleung Island and thus cannot be seen from the island with the naked eye.

However, Hong Seong-keun says in his book “Dokdo” that he grew up watching Dokdo from his house on Ulleung Island. It is a fairly well-known fact that Dokdo can be seen from Ulleung Island at least three to four times a month. Furthermore, Dokdo is almost twice as close to Ulleung Island than to Oki Islands, the Japanese islands nearest to Dokdo.

Last but not least, the most credible documents supporting Korea originate from Japan itself. The historical records on Japan’s online historical archives, university websites, Takeshima (Dokdo) lobby forums and the Japanese government website clearly show that they deliberately omitted certain historical facts, which actually backs up Korea’s stance on the issue.

In response to Japan’s claim of Dokdo, which has never been theirs, Korea continues to notify the international community of the true story of Dokdo. I believe that each of us has a duty to support the efforts of the Korean government and other organizations to protect our territory, as this issue has been lingering for over a century and Japan is becoming more aggressive.

Therefore, we should spread the truth of Dokdo to the whole world. One powerful strategy is to change one’s permanent domicile to Dokdo. Recently, Rep. Park Sun-young, a former constitutional law professor, set a good example by doing this.

There are many other creative ways. For instance, the advertisement for ‘2011 Korea Cup Yacht Race’, which was sponsored by Korean singer Kim Jang-hoon, featured the pictures of Dokdo as the route for this international competition.

In another example, renowned Korean Hanbok designer, Lee Young-hee, is hosting a fashion show on Dokdo on National Liberation Day, August 15, 2011. Lee aims to inform the world that Dokdo is Korean territory through displaying Korea’s traditional costumes right on the islet.

Moreover, The Korea Times recently took part in this movement, and held a Dokdo Essay Contest. Much to our surprise, foreigners entered this contest, which demonstrated that our effort is yielding positive results globally. I am sure that the world will eventually acknowledge Dokdo as Korean territory, if we continue with our efforts.

Lee Eun-jeong is a freshman at Daewon Foreign Language High School. She can be contacted at

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