Dokdo, Beautiful Island of Korea
By Shim Hyun-chul
The Dokdo-bound ship slices furiously through the waves. After running non-stop for about two hours, a small island comes into view.
From the speakers the unmistakable melody ``Dokdo is our land'' resounds. ``The fine weather will allow us to anchor the ship right by Dokdo,'' the captain announces in his thick local accent, signaling the landing.
As passengers set foot on the miniscule dock of Eastern Island (measuring 80 meters long and a surface area of 1,800 square meters), they are overwhelmed by the staggering facade of Dokdo that stands before them.
Because of Dokdo's fickle weather, there is no guarantee that the ship can land even if forecasts enable departure from Ulleung-do. The fact alone that they managed to reach the island greatly excites the tourists.
In the year 512 during the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 936), Dokdo was named Usando, and then called Sambongdo and Gajido throughout the Joseon era (1392-1910).
The name Dokdo first came into use in 1906 by Ulleung governor Sim Heung-taek after which the island became an administrative district of North Gyeongsang Province.
Contrary to popular belief, Dokdo does not mean ``lonely island.'' The southern Jeolla people pronounced dolseom, or literally rock isle, as dokseom. To this day, local residents call Dokdo (``do,'' or island, being synonymous with ``seom'') dolseom or dokseom.
The address for Dokdo is street numbers 1 through 96, Dokdori, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung-gun, North Gyeongsang Province. Situated far east, it is 84.7 kilometers away from Ulleungdo. A remnant of a volcanic eruption, Dokdo is composed of two large Eastern and Western islands and 89 affiliated islets.
Dokdo measures 187,554 square meters (Eastern island is 73,297, Western island is 88,740 and the smaller ones make up 25,517). The channel separating the two main rocks measures 151 meters wide, 330 meters long and 10 meters below crystal clear water.
Eastern Island houses a lighthouse and most of the maritime facilities as well as the North Gyeongbuk Province police post. It stands 98.6 meters high with a circumference of 2.8 kilometers, and is characterized by a circular hole in the center that dips into the sea.
Western island is 168.5 meters high with a wraparound length of 2.6 kilometers. Its axis stretches 450 meters in longitude and 300 meters latitude, and peaks in a cone-shaped mound. There are dormitories for fisherman and a house for its sole residents, Gim Seong-do, 68, and his wife Gim Sin-ryeol, 70.
Wednesday, there was an online competition for naming the roads of Dokdo. The road leading to the guard post from the dock was named Dokdo Yi Sa-bu-gil, and the one winding down to Gim's home was dubbed An Yong-bok-gil. Yi Sa-bu was a general who conquered Usanguk (present day Ulleungdo) in 512 during the Silla Kingdom. An Yong-bok was a civilian diplomat who, upon discovering Japanese fishing activity in the area in 1696, traveled to Japan and received a formal apology by reaffirming that Dokdo was Joseon territory.
Visit www.ulleung.go.kr/English or call (054) 790-6645 to learn more about Dokdo and traveling there.