Dokdo: An Unjustified Japanese Claim
Dokdo has been changed to Liancourt Rocks by many map makers in the United States and Europe. The outsiders have chosen a neutral name, neither Korean nor Japanese, perhaps because of the Japanese government's campaign. The Japanese influence on map makers is apparently more powerful than Korea's.
My friends and I made a serious campaign to the National Geographic and other map makers to use Sea of Japan with East Sea for the sea between Japan and Korea. We succeeded. Now, the same National Geographic uses Dokdo with Takeshima. We protested, but the National Geographic said: We try to be neutral or fair to Japan, as we tried to be fair to Korea.
This is just one episode I experienced. Sad, and deplorable! If Japan really attempts to make Dokdo its territory, it is pathetic. Japan's tragedy is an act of robbery within the purview of international law. Dokdo has been part of Korea since 512 when Silla General Isabu conquered Ullung-do and its surrounding islands, including Dokdo.
The Japanese government and ultra-nationalistic Japanese people maintain a theory that Dokdo is ``an inherent Japanese territory'' as claimed by the Korean government. This is similar to Minquiers and Ecrehos case in which both parties claimed that they had historic and original title to Ecrehos and Minquiers and had always maintained and never forfeited it.
Is Dokdo an inherent part of Japanese territory historically and originally?
Japan claims Dokdo as an inherent part of its territory. Then, it denies Korean history since 512. Japanese fishermen came to Ullung-do and Dokdo when Ullung-do was vacant during 300 to 400 years during the Joseon Kingdom's rule, because the island was then a criminals' haven.
However, Joseon never abandoned the island. It is true that Japanese fishermen visited Ullung-do and stopped by Dokdo when the islands were vacant.
However, the Japanese government under the Shogun never took the island as its own territory in the 17th century. Why does Japan not claim Ullung-do as its own territory? Dokdo has been part of Ullung-do. International laws determine uninhabitable rocks belong to the closest inhabitable island. The current Japanese government claims that it never gave up Dokdo, even though it gave up Ullung-do. Don't you think it is funny?
Japan justified the fact that Japanese fishermen used Ullung-do and Dokdo as fishing grounds while left vacant by the Joseon government and presented evidence: merchants of Yonago, Otani Jinkichi and Murakawa Ichihei obtained official licenses from the Shogunate to voyage to the Joseon islands.
The Shogunate government never attempted to claim the vacant Ullung-do as its own land, but the current Fukuda government does.
The Japanese government is deteriorating morally and ethically. It should rediscover the virtue of the Shogunate government. I miss the Shogun.
The Shogunate government measured the distances between the Korean Peninsula and Ullung-do and Ullung-do and Dokdo, and accepted the two islands belong to Joseon. Unfortunately, the distance has not changed since then, but the Japanese mind has. The Japanese government and people should find their conscience.
Japan said: The Shogunate decided to abandon Ullung-do, but the Japanese fishermen's voyage to Dokdo was not banned. If that is the case, how could Japan explain the dispatch of the three-man survey team to Korea during the Meiji era? The survey team recognized Dokdo was part of Korean territory in the team's report, ``A Confidential Report on the Korean Diplomacy.''
I accept the Japanese claim of ``incorporation of Dokdo into Japanese territory'' during the period of 1905-1945. The first Japan-Korea Treaty signed on Aug. 22, 1904 forced Korea surrender all diplomatic rights to Japan. Japan used the East Sea/Sea of Japan as a critical battleground and Dokdo as a strategic point during a war with Russia in 1904.
During the period of 1905 to 1945, Dokdo and all Korean Peninsula were under Japanese ``effective" occupation. Then, Japan should not just claim Dokdo as its own territory.
Japan may not like King Gojong's Imperial Ordinance 41 which was issued in April 1900. Under this ordinance, Ullung-do was renamed Uldo and the superintendant of the island was upgraded to county chief who was under the governor of Gangwon Province (Article 1) and the county chief supervises Jukdo and Sokdo (Dokdo) administratively (Article 2). Dok in Dokdo means ``stone" or ``rock" and becomes ``sok" in the Chinese characters.
The ordinance confirmed that Dokdo was under the administrative control of Ullung-do. That has been the case since 512.
Dokdo was clearly Korea's possession and was not a terra nullius subject to Japan's prior occupation.
Before modern shipping and navigation technologies developed, measurements of high sea distance between Ullung-do and Dokdo could not be precise. That could provide a good excuse for Japan to claim that Dokdo was its territory. Nonsense!
Even Japanese people in the past used Ullung-do and Dokdo interchangeably and also adopted Liancourt Rocks. Japan acquired the modernization from American gunboat diplomacy under the so-called Meiji Restoration.
The modernization brought development of Western science and technology and enabled Japan to draw modern maps and adopt precision measurements. But their earlier modernization, and science and technology cannot justify Dokdo as its own territory.
It is true: the Joseon people recorded that Dokdo was visible on a clear fine day from Ullung-do. Another record showed that it was a five-day sailing from Ullung-do to Dokdo. That kind of recording was taken for Japan's claim that Dokdo was never Dokdo as the Korean people claim today.
Japan uses the supreme commander for the allied powers' definition of Japanese territory in its 677 memorandum entitled ``Government and Administrative Separation of Certain Outlying Areas from Japan" issued on Jan. 29, 1946.
Japan surrendered to the allied forces in August 1945. Dokdo was not mentioned in the memorandum. That does not necessarily mean that Dokdo is part of Japanese territory. Jeju-do, Gomundo, and Ullung-do were clearly mentioned.
Korea has more than these big islands. How could the SCAP memorandum mention all the small islands Korea possessed prior to Japan's annexation of Korea in 1905? Impossible! Such a memorandum did not intend to list all small islands.
Dokdo was separated from Japan by SCAP memorandum, because Dokdo was and is still part of Ullung-do. There was no positive or clean stipulation of including Dokdo to Japan in the memorandum or in the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which was signed on Sept. 8, 1951, effective on April 28, 1952.
The treaty provided in Article 2 (a): ``Japan will recognize the independence of Korea and renounce all rights, titles, and claims to Korea, including Jeju-do, Gomun-do and Ullung-do." By virtue of this provision, Korea's independence was recognized ultimately and officially. From this rule, Dokdo was automatically returned to Ullung-do, and to Korea.
Most important evidence against the Japanese claims on Dokdo are old Japanese maps and documents showing Ullung-do and Dokdo as part of Joseon. Old maps and documents are innocent.
Japan should discover the lessons from its history. In the maps published in 1648 and 1702, during the Tokugawa Shogunate period, Ullung-do and Dokdo (Takeshima) were not shown. The Nakakubo Sekisui map is known to have taken some 20 years to complete, and is the first government map in which latitude and longitude were used.
Ullung-do and Dokdo appeared on the map: however, coloring of these islands were different from the coloring of Japan and its small islands (Nihon Yochi Zenzu, Complete Map of Japanese Lands and Roads). There were numerous old maps, indicating that Ullung-do and Dokdo were not islands of Japan (Saito Hosen, Onshu Shiicho Goki (Records on Observations in Oki Province); Hayashi Shiheiassa, Sangoku Tsuran Yochi Rotel, Complete Three-Nation Map).
Japan should abandon its quest to expand its territory through its powerful status in international circles. Undersea resources, natural gas and minerals may attract Japanese ambition.
Human beings have a sense of justice and fairness to each other and due respect for history. Japanese people should regret the past 40 years under its military expansionism and emerge as a new peace-loving nation respectable in this 21st century.
The Korean people feel outraged when Japan brings the case to an international court of justice. Don't feel bad. Justice will prevail.
The writer received his doctorate degree in political science from Indiana University, taught at the University of Wisconsin, Old Dominion University, and University of Seoul before his retirement in 2006. He was an assistant for environmental quality in the U.S. Department of Defense, 1981-1983.