[Viewpoint]A strategy for Dokdo
Rallies and hard-line responses condemning Japan are important. But we also need to establish logical arguments.
Three times throughout history, Japan admitted that the Dokdo islets were the territory of the Joseon Kingdom, or present-day Korea.
The first recognition was made in 1669 by the Tottori Domain. Tottori fishermen used to frequent Ulleung Island and the Dokdo islets at the time, and reported to the central government of Edo Bakufu that the two islands did not belong to the Tottori Domain. It also stated that the Dokdo islets were islands on the way to Ulleung Island. Three days later, the Edo Bakufu government banned the Japanese from crossing the sea to Ulleung Island, and prohibited people from going to Dokdo as well. Therefore, all the maps created in the Edo Bakufu era do not include the Dokdo islets.
The second recognition was made in 1870. The Meiji government of Japan ordered its foreign ministry to investigate the circumstances of how Ulleung Island and the Dokdo islets became Joseon territory. Importantly, the Meiji government’s investigation concluded that the Dokdo islets belonged to Joseon.
Seven years later in 1877, the ministry of internal affairs inquired of the Council of State, or Daijokan, that although Ulleung Island and the Dokdo islets were not associated with Japan, following negotiations with Joseon officials in the late 17th century, the ministry would like to reconfirm the Daijokan’s position. The Daijokan, which was the highest authority of the Japanese government at the time, issued an order that the ministry should keep in mind that Ulleung Island and the Dokdo islets had nothing to do with Japan. This was the third official acknowledgement by the Japanese government that Dokdo belonged to Korea.
Despite three official acknowledgements that the islets were Joseon’s territory, the Japanese have hidden the official documents and repeatedly claimed that the islets belonged to Japan.
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper insisted in an editorial on July 15 that Japan established territorial rights to Dokdo in the mid-17th century. However, Japan conceded rights to the Dokdo islets in late 17th century and reconfirmed this in the late 19th century. The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Japanese media have little historical knowledge of the Dokdo islets.
As Japan forcibly included Dokdo into the Shimane Prefecture, it argued that it could occupy the islets as they were uninhabited and ownerless islands. This logic fails to prove that Dokdo is Japanese territory. But recently, the Japanese government has changed its rhetoric claiming that Dokdo was reconfirmed as Japan’s territory by modern law in 1905. However, in order for Tokyo to “reconfirm” their ownership, they need to have “confirmed” it first. But Japan has never historically claimed that Dokdo is Japanese territory; its argument is contradictory and unreasonable.
Japan’s claim to Dokdo is unreasonable as it intentionally hides historical facts, and now it wants to teach this groundless theory to its middle school students.
Korea should remain calm and careful in responding to the stubborn and unreasonable Japanese stance. Rallies and hard-line responses condemning Japan are important. But we also need to focus on establishing logical arguments to refute Japan’s claim. Korea has to prepare PR documents in different languages and publicize to the world that the Dokdo Islets belong to Korea.
Most of all, we need to seek a way to reinforce Korea’s effective territorial right. One way is to make the Dokdo islets a clearly inhibited land to accommodate more civilians, where currently only one family resides. Also, Korea needs to survey and develop underwater resources around the islets. Only then can Korea establish effective rule of Dokdo.
Japan covered Okinotorishima in the south with concrete and turned the 30-centimeter (11.8-inch) tall atoll into an island. Korea should also expand the islets by filling in the sea around the Dokdo islets. No matter what Tokyo says, there is no need to respond to their claims. Instead, Seoul should continue to pursue various policies in order to reinforce Korea’s dominion.
Since Korea is already effectively governing Dokdo, we should not be shaken by Japan’s offensive. Making the most out of our effective rule, Korea needs to make substantial efforts to strengthen its ownership of the islets. We need to carefully pursue the project to publicize the fact that the Dokdo islets are territories of Korea and become more mature in responding with realistic and long-term plans.
*The writer is a professor at the Graduate School of Political Science of Sejong University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hosaka Yuji