[FOUNTAIN]Take stand on Korea’s Tokto islandsOn Sept. 29, 1904, Japanese deep-sea fisher Yozaburo Nakai petitioned to the Japanese interior, foreign and agricultural ministries to incorporate Liancourt Rocks into Japanese territory and lease the area for the purpose of sea lion hunting. Liancourt Rocks was the French name for the Tokto islands at the time. Because Japan could be accused of planning to annex Korea, the interior ministry opposed the idea. However, the foreign ministry snapped that such suspicions were groundless.
The petition was approved on Jan. 28, 1905. Furthermore, Japan built a naval watchtower on Tokto on Aug. 19, 1905. Sim Heung-taek, the governor of Ulleungdo island, learned of Japan’s occupation of Tokto on March 28, 1906, when an official of Shimane Prefecture slipped it. While the Royal Court of Korea was furious, the protest of the waning Great Han Empire was futile.
On April 30, 1882, an investigation team of 102 officers led by Inspector Lee Gyu-won arrived at Ulleungdo island. After a nine-day probe, seven days on foot and two days by boat, the mission recorded on the report, “78 Japanese loggers have infiltrated the island, and a wooden sign reading ‘Takeshima of the Great Japan’ has been put up at the harbor.”
In 1696, the 22nd year under King Sukjong’s reign, 16 fishermen, including An Yong-bok of Dongrae, went to Ulleungdo island. When Mr. An saw Japanese fishermen and fishing boats, he rebuked them as to why they were on Korean soil. The Japanese responded that they were residents of Takeshima and came to Ulleungdo island for fishing. They claimed that Tokto was a part of Japanese territory.
Japan had been tenaciously coveting the islands of Tokto, which had been a Korean territory since 512, the time of King Jijeung of Silla.
Today, the Japanese ambassador to Korea even held a news conference declaring Tokto was a part of Japan in the center of Seoul. However, the Korean government’s “Tokto diplomacy” is lukewarm at best.
It is only concerned with preventing tension from spreading, insisting that the case should not go to international court.
Such lukewarm attitudes might amplify doubts among the international community on the fact that the Tokto islands belong to Korea.
by Ahn Sung-kyoo
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.