Stop Dokdo ads!
By Chung Min-uck
An advertisement that claims sovereignty of the easternmost islets of Dokdo was published on the main page of the Wall Street Journal’s online edition, Wednesday.
The ad has two reversible titles ― “Error in Google?” and “Error in Apple?” ― and when readers click it they see a map that writes “Dokdo” and “East Sea” on the body of water separating Korea and Japan.
At the bottom of the ad is the internet address www.forthenextgeneration.com, a website that explains why the islets are Korean territory and why the currently used name of “Sea of Japan” is wrong.
According to Seo Kyoung-duk, a Sungshin Women’s University professor, and singer Kim Jang-hoon, who launched the ad, the move intends to “stir up world public opinion” that global companies, such as Google and Apple, are miswriting the names of the islets and the sea.
The ad is slated to be published for two weeks.
Despite their good intention of refuting Japan’s unjustified claims that dates back to the colonial period (1910-1945), many worry of an adverse effect.
First of all, the rocky outcroppings are already effectively controlled by Seoul with a small police force detached there. In this regard, Japan can only protest Korea’s sovereignty with no materialized effect. Under international law, Japan cannot unilaterally introduce a territorial claim before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Also, what should be understood is that Dokdo is a territorial issue that should be dealt from a strictly legal point of view. Currently, Korea officially sticks to the point that there is no legal dispute between Korea and Japan.
Publishing ads that claim Korea’s territorial rights can only give the outside world the impression that the islets are being disputed by the two nations, an impression that Tokyo seeks to create.
“The attitude that the territorial issue should be resolved via advertisements is amateurish,” said Kim Hyun-soo, a professor at Inha University Law School. “The East Sea naming is an issue with no practical benefit that entirely relates to Koreans’ resentment toward Japan’s imperialism. So it is okay to approach it in terms of public opinion like publishing ads.”
“But regarding Dokdo it is different. Seo and Kim are actually helping the Japanese in turning the area into a disputed one. They have contributed a lot in doing this.”
If Dokdo becomes defined as a disputed area, it would bring about a negative impact on Korea’s claim to sovereignty of the islets, as it can draw the international community’s intervention for a peaceful resolution. The ways of peaceful resolution surely includes ICJ submission.
To make matters worse, the National Assembly lately approved the Foreign Ministry’s 6.5 billion won budget bill allotted for Dokdo-related advertisements in 2013.
It will mark Korea’s first government-backed PR campaign of the islets. The ministry plans to produce posters and television commercials and distribute them to media outlets at home and abroad.