Dokdo museum gets more attentionThe move by Japan’s Shimane prefecture to establish “Takeshima Day” has led to heightened interest in the Dokdo islets ― Takeshima is the name Japan gives to the rocky outcroppings in the East Sea. This has led to busy times for officials at the Dokdo Museum, situated on neighboring Ulleungdo island.
“Since the beginning of this month, calls inquiring about Dokdo’s history or regarding donations of materials related to Dokdo started pouring in,” said curator Lee Seung-jin, 49, who was appointed to the position in 2002. The museum, built in 1997, was established to explore historical facts and assertions to counter Japan’s arguments for territorial rights over the islets. Despite unpredictable weather and difficulty in traveling to Ulleungdo, a total of 650,000 people have visited the museum, including 120,000 last year alone.
“The museum owns 1,300 items related to Dokdo and the East Sea. There are more than 900 pieces, including old maps, literature and photographs, just related to Dokdo. Japan is no match for Korea in terms of the amount of historical records,” Mr. Lee said, adding, “A proclamation in 1905 given by Shimane prefecture as evidence for the ordinance has no value as a record.
“Although they asserted that they announced ‘Takeshima now belongs to Shimane prefecture,’ they did not publicize this in local newspapers and few people signed the declaration,” he said. “This is not a proclamation but a unilateral statement. Even in the records they do have, many say ‘Dokdo is a territory of Joseon. Former curator Lee Jong-hak provided such records to Japan eight years ago.”
The museum has added a Japanese language service to its Web site (www.dokdomuseum.go.kr) besides Korean and English services.
“So far, our country has neglected promoting Dokdo-related materials internationally,” Mr. Lee said. “We should reflect on this.”
Mr. Lee received master’s and doctorate degrees in historical anthropology from Yeungnam University. He was a researcher at the school before coming to the museum in 1998 and being made curator in 2002.
On a rock standing in front of the entrance to the museum is carved a passage from the “Sejongsilloc,” a court history book written in the early Joseon Dynasty, which says, “Tsushima island originally belonged to Joseon.” Tsushima island, which is close to the Korean Peninsula, now belongs to Japan.
“Reading this reminds us of the lesson that if we are neglectful, we could lose our territory,” Mr. Lee said.
by Song Yee-ho
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