[Bronze Prize Winners] Act of aggression toward Dokdo
From ancient times, many countries have been engaged in maritime boundary and territorial disputes all over the world.
Territorial issues have caused a long-standing feud between neighboring countries. Even now some nations are constantly in severe conflict with one another. The most prominent among these conflicts would be Korea’s dispute with Japan over the sovereignty of Dokdo, which consists of two tiny rocky islets surrounded by 33 smaller rocks in the East Sea.
Maritime sovereignty is highly problematic in essence compared with the terrestrial realm where territorial demarcations are clearly established. This is the most basic reason why Dokdo has become enormous issue between Korean and Japanese government. Still, the Japanese government in recent years has stepped up claims of sovereignty over the island.
Territorial disputes over which nation should have control over the island have been ongoing for over a hundred years with no resolution in sight. Japan consistently takes the position that Japan’s incorporation of Dokdo to Shimane Prefecture in 1905 was legitimate and still remains effective until the present time.
This claim, however, is completely illogical.
Japan alleges that Shimane Prefecture incorporated Dokdo into the Japanese territory in 1905 because it was not owned by any country at that time. Contrary to this, Dokdo had already been part of Korean territory since 512AD, when Silla absorbed Usanguk. This island was also administered by Korea before 1905 under an administrative decree issued in 1900 by the Korean Empire. This is five years earlier than Japan's claim that it has incorporated Dokdo to Shimane. This fact is important evidence that can overturn Japanese claims for territorial rights of Dokdo.
Dokdo was administered by the Korean government until Korea became a protectorate of Japan in 1905, thereby losing its status of being an independent nation and being stripped of sovereignty. This fact alone is sufficient to prove that Japanese incorporation of it is an indisputable act of aggression which is equal to a flagrant violation of international law.
Nevertheless, Japan, in the midst of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), which had been triggered by Japan’s imperialistic invasion scheme, intended to take possession of Dokdo and incorporated the island into the Shimane Prefecture by issuing the Shimane Prefecture Public Notice No. 40.
The notice Japan allegedly made was in reality so stealthy that even the Japanese public did not know and no foreign governments paid attention to, let alone any Koreans. The Shimane notice, needless to say, is completely ineffective as a legal initiative. More importantly, Japan’s actions carry no legal validity under international law.
In analyzing the conflict between Korea and Japan, one must first understand the element that contributes to aggravating the situation; nostalgia for “Japanese Colonialism” that still exists at present. Korea had not been able to effectively protest the Japanese action at the time because Japan had already taken control of the foreign affairs of Korea via the Protectorate Treaty of 1905, also known as the Eulsa Treaty. It subjected Koreans to horrific treatment.
The Japanese flaunted its power by using arms at a time when Korea was waning in influence. Regrettably, Dokdo is the tragic victim of the armed aggression toward Korea. It took advantage of Korea's political weakness when the islets were registered as a part of Shimane prefecture. The imperialistic remains of Japan have not been cleared away yet.
The Japanese argument which is out of place is proof of its dark nostalgia for its imperialistic past. Japan continues to insist that Dokdo is its rightful territory won during the period of its imperialism: More specifically that it retains territorial rights to its former colony. This claim is a denial of Korean liberation and independence.
The struggle over Dokdo is a clear example how fragile ties are between the two countries. The two neighbors have shared an uneasy relationship and a stormy past for a long time. Lingering tensions and unresolved disputes pose a harmful influence on friendly relations of both countries. Japan should realize that a futile attempt like is detrimental Korean spirits. Many Koreans have been indignant over the Japan’s attitude.
Admitting the fact that Dokdo is the rightful possession of Korea is the key to genuine peace and a brighter future. The fact that Dokdo is an integral part of the Korean territory is irrefutable in every aspect; historically, geographically and under international law.
Japan’s annexation of Dokdo in 1905 could not be justified under any circumstance, for it is a clear infringement on the undeniable sovereignty of Korea over the island. The name Dokdo, instead of Takeshima, must prevail throughout the world for the sake of justice.
The writer is an administrative official at Kumyang Electric in Korea. He can be reached at email@example.com.