Control of Dokdo is key

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Control of Dokdo is key

A great cross section of Korean people must have felt disappointed yesterday when the Japanese government announced the end result of its 2008 review of middle school textbooks. Indeed, some Koreans undoubtedly feel betrayed by Japan’s regretful handling of the thorny sovereignty issue over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea.

Yesterday, Japan’s Ministry of Education and Science approved 18 social studies textbooks for middle schools screened by a committee under the ministry. Among them, 12 textbooks carried the controversial argument that Dokdo belongs to Japan. In a previous review, only 10 out of 23 textbooks claimed that the islets belong to Japan.

In addition, the number of textbooks that argue that Korea occupies Dokdo illegally increased to four from only one in the past. In the case of history textbooks in particular, authors obviously attempted to glorify Japan’s past by sweeping historical dirt under the carpet in an effort to reflect the ministry’s 2008 guidelines on history teaching, which stresses the importance of patriotism and nationalism.

Our government’s response to Japan’s move was correct. It opted to strengthen our actual control of the islets rather than making a big diplomatic fuss, which is the weaker strategy. We need to watch the way Russia deals with Japan’s demand for control of the northern islands. Russia still effectively rules those islands despite Japan’s outbursts.

We believe the best choice for us is to build a heliport and seawall, while reinforcing the dock and extending the residential area for fishermen. At the same time, the government should try to educate the world as to why Dokdo is our territory in terms of both history and international law.

After the cataclysmic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis battered Japan, Koreans took the lead to help Japan recover from the disasters, surpassing the efforts of all the other countries in the world. Even the former “comfort women” tried to give a helping hand, which was astonishingly generous of them. Donations from Koreans have already exceeded 35 billion won ($31.8 million). The humanitarian wave of support for Japan shouldn’t stop just because of simmering diplomatic discord over textbooks.

We should respond to Japan in a calm manner, because whatever Japan says about Dokdo, it is our territory and it’s effectively controlled by Koreans. There is no need for us to get emotionally entangled in Japan’s plot to make the islets disputed territory.
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