A state-run history foundation disclosed a set of old Japanese maps Wednesday that clearly show Tokyo regarded the islets of Dokdo as part of Korean territory.
Dokdo are rocky islets that lie less than 90 kilometers east of Ulleung Island in the East Sea.
The Northeast Asian History Foundation (NAHF) exhibited 10 Japanese maps dated from the late 18th century through the early 20th century that excluded Dokdo from Japan’s territory.
Of them, three were never made public before, including “A Map of the Japan Empire,” drawn in 1892.
The color-coded map of Japan marked Japanese territory in pink, including Oki Islands, but left Korean territory, including Ulleung Island and Dokdo blank.
The map was used in elementary schools in Japan.
The remaining maps also clearly marked Ulleung Island and Dokdo as separate from Japan.
“Most Japanese maps dating prior to 1905 show that Tokyo did not recognize Dokdo as part of areas where it exerts sovereignty,” a senior official of the history foundation said. “Those maps are highly valuable evidence that disputes Japan’s recent claims that Dokdo has long been a part of its territory.”
On Tuesday, the Japanese government approved three new high school textbooks claiming Dokdo as part of its territory.
Nam Sang-gu, a senior researcher at NAHF, said the number of textbooks claiming Dokdo as Japanese territory has not significantly increased, while acknowledging that more of them have begun to wrongfully assert that Dokdo has long been a part of Japan’s history.
Japan secretly annexed Dokdo, which it refers to as Takeshima, in 1905 ― prior to the colonization of the Korean Peninsula ― in an alleged attempt to install military facilities on the rocky islets during the Russo-Japanese War.
Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) said the move implicitly glorified the neighboring country’s wartime colonial past.
"We strongly protest the approval by the Japanese government of high school textbooks that justify a distorted historical perspective and glorify its past wrongdoing, and demand a fundamental correction," MOFAT spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.
The newly adopted textbooks will be used in Japanese high schools from March next year.
In response, MOFAT summoned a Japanese diplomat to protest the move.