By Jane Han
Korea Times Correspondent
NEW YORK - First a full-page ad in The New York Times and then a 30-second video played on a Times Square billboard. So what's next to promote Korea's ownership of Dokdo in the U.S.?
Rubber bracelets - 100,000 of them.
The Korean American Leaders Association (KALA) and BYON International - both Korean-American organizations in the U.S. - kicked off a fresh PR campaign to spread the word that Dokdo belongs to Korea.
They designed and created blue elastic bracelets with the words "Dokdo is Korean Territory" and "East Sea is Korea" written on them. With the initial distribution starting in New York and New Jersey, KALA co-chair Hwang Sung-ho says the campaign will soon go national.
"We need to be more aggressive in raising awareness in the U.S. about the importance of this issue," he told The Korea Times, stressing that the U.S. holds the key to resolving the long-running dispute between Korea and Japan.
The territorial conflict, which often strains bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo, was reignited last week when Japanese authorities approved history textbooks labeling the South Korea-controlled islets as part of Japan.
The books claim that South Korea "illegally occupies" the pair of islets Japan calls Takeshima.
After last week's move, the Japanese government again claimed Dokdo as its own in Tokyo's latest diplomatic bluebook, released Tuesday.
"People in the U.S. know and talk about the Falkland Islands but nobody knows about Dokdo," said Hwang, "and that's what we need to change."
He pointed out the reality that even Korean-Americans do not have an understanding of Dokdo.
"The campaign will first target the younger generations on college campuses and then expand from there," said Hwang.
KALA officials say they plan to increase distribution of the blue bracelets by having runners of this year's Boston Marathon wear them during the annual event later this month. Plus, they are seeking cooperation with other Korean organizations nationwide for a faster and more effective distribution.
A series of media ads advocating Korea's sovereignty of Dokdo have been launched in the U.S., but this is the first time PR material was created for mass distribution.
Some critics say overseas promotion of Dokdo may lead to adverse effects instead of helping strengthen Korea's claims. But leading Korean-American groups are unfazed by these concerns.
"Hopefully, this campaign won't end as a one-time blitz but continue as an ongoing one even beyond the U.S.," said Hwang.