중앙데일리

Finding a compromise on Dokdo

Komatsu organizes an annual meeting for Koreans and Japanese to discuss the issue.

Sept 03,2008
Akio Komatsu
The last person you would expect to be sympathetic about the Dokdo issue is someone from Shimane, the Japanese prefecture that claims sovereignty over the islets that Korea has long controlled as its easternmost territory.

Akio Komatsu, 63, is just that person.

“I have been interested in the Takeshima-Dokdo issue for a long time,” said Komatsu in an interview through an interpreter in Seoul last month. Dokdo is known as Takeshima in Japan.

Komatsu, the CEO of Komatsu Electric Industry, a Japan-based venture electric company, argues that people from both countries should meet and talk as much as possible to narrow their differences in interpreting the shared history.

Komatsu has lived his entire life in Shimane, which, according to the Japanese government, has had sovereignty over Dokdo since 1905.

He said it was this interest - as “people who are more directly concerned” - that led some Shimane residents to join in raising voices to claim Dokdo.

This has been heightened, he said, since the Shimane Prefectural Assembly passed a bill to designate Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day in 2005.

Komatsu took a different path. A pacifist by nature, he traveled throughout Japan and sometimes even to Korea, to meet people and discuss alternative solutions to the issue.

This year, two days before the Feb. 22 Takeshima Day, he invited several Koreans, including the leader of a civic group established to defend Dokdo, to a symposium near his company’s headquarters.

The symposium, designed to give both Koreans and Japanese the chance to find a middle ground, will be held annually, he said.

Komatsu pointed out that the unity of Koreans and Japanese is crucial not only to resolve the Dokdo conflict, but also other issues including World War II “comfort women” and forced labor under Japanese rule.

Unity, he said, is also needed to address the issues that are threatening both countries, such as global warming and epidemics like avian influenza.

“Korea and Japan both are superb in the [natural] sciences,” he said. “If they join forces to deal with pending issues such as global warming, they will win the respect of the world and set an example for other regions in conflict.”

The decades-long dispute over the sovereignty of the rocky islets on the East Sea (Sea of Japan) dates back to the Japanese colonization of Korea in 1910?45.

In July, Tokyo included its claim to Dokdo in teaching guidelines for junior high schools.

This prompted Seoul to temporarily recall its Japan ambassador in protest and led to demonstrations outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry Web site also describes Dokdo as a part of Japan.


By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [joe@joongang.co.kr]


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