[VIEWPOINT]Korean vaguery helps the JapaneseThe Japanese government’s revelation that all high school history book publishers in the company must write clearly that Takeshima (the Japanese name for Dokdo islets) is part of Japanese territory, if they are to receive approval by the government is causing a stir.
The Japanese government has been claiming that the Dokdo islets are the territory of Japan both historically and in terms of international law through a Web site, the “Takeshima” page, of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The problem is that the Web site provides the official position of the Japanese government, but is full of distortions and concealment of the truth all courtesy of government-patronized scholars.
One example of their unscholarly attitude is their distortion, concealment and disregard of documents from the early days of the Meiji era that acknowledged Dokdo islets as Korean territory.
The cabinet of the Meiji government concluded in 1877 that “Takeshima (the Japanese name for Ulleung island at the time) and one other island (Dokdo) have no relations with Japan.”
Korea has frequently pointed this out, although the Japanese government-patronized scholars do not mention it. They have also intentionally disregarded the historical fact, saying it is not clear which island the “one other island” is.
Last year in Japan, I got hold of a decisive document titled “Takeshima and one other island in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) are decided not to be the Japanese territory.”
This is new research that was produced by compiling existing documents. It is preserved on microfilm at the National Archives of Japan. The film was so dark that it was hard to read. Yet, from the original document that I managed to obtain with great difficulty, I could find the clear-cut stipulation that the “one other island” in the “Takeshima and one other island” was “Matsushima” (which is what the Japanese called Dokdo at the time).
The document says “Matsushima” is an island that lies “in the same direction with Takeshima, 80 ri from Japan’s Oki island, with the circumference of 30 jeong” as well.
But regrettably there hasn’t been any one Korean scholar who offers the estimation of the distance and the size of the island described as “80 ri from Oki Island and with the circumference of 30 jeong.”
In Japan, 1 ri is 4 kilometers, but in Korea it is 0.4 kilometers. Adapting this to “80 ri,” it is 320 kilometers in Japan and 32 kilometers in Korea. Both numbers are greatly different from the actual distance from Oki island to Dokdo islets, which is 160 kilometers.
Korea has not presented the calculation of this sort and Japan has taken advantage.
If we assume “1 ri” to be “1 haeri (1 nautical mile, or 1 knot)” , which is 1,852 meters, then “80 ri” is around 150 kilometers, which matches the distance between Oki island and Dokdo almost exactly. Considering the fact that the official document provided by the Japanese government in January 1905 to include Dokdo islets as a part of Japanese territory also records the distance between Oki island and Dokdo as “85 ri,” it is right to calculate “1 ri” as “1 haeri (or knot).”
In addition, “30 jeong” is around 3.3 kilometers because 1 jeong is around 109 meters, and the circumference of Dokdo is around 4 kilometers, so the “one other island” must be referring to Dokdo islets.
Koreans must reflect on the fact that they have failed to present their position with precision. Meanwhile, Japan has made use of this, and could continue to insist that Dokdo is part of its own territory. In other words, the obscureness of the Koreans gave Japan a weapon in its fight to secure the island.
I am circulating the new document and the explanations on them to my Japanese friends and acquaintances every time I find a chance. And those who have read the document acknowledge there is a problem with the Japanese government’s view.
We live in an era of information technology. In such a world, we cannot get the results we want if we enter one wrong letter.
Likewise, if we do not carry out more detailed research on Dokdo than the Japanese, we will not only be able to persuade the Japanese people, but also ultimately help them to distort and conceal the truth.
* The writer is a professor of Japan studies at Sejong University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Yuji Hosaka