Guide Japan to DokdoFour Japanese lawmakers from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party announced that they will visit Ulleung Island to protest Korea’s claim over the Dokdo islets, which lies 87 kilometers (54 miles) southeast of Ulleung Island in the East Sea. They reportedly plan to arrive in Seoul on Aug. 1 to meet their counterparts at the National Assembly and then go to Ulleung Island by sea to tour the Dokdo Museum there.
Some Japanese news outlets have described the visit as “surveillance of the enemy.” And there’s no doubt that the move is aimed at creating a territorial dispute over the Dokdo islets - particularly after Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered its staff to boycott Korean Air flights for one month beginning July 18.
Yet it does not seem quite right for the Korean government to block the Japanese lawmakers’ visit to Ulleung Island - and it doesn’t have to, either. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan vowed to persuade Japan to voluntarily cancel the visit, citing a potential clash between the Japanese legislators and Korean civic groups. But that’s neither an appropriate nor confident approach to the issue.
Lee Jae-oh, minister without portfolio, went so far as to say that the government will use every possible means to interrupt the visit. His remarks may sound gratifying at first, but they leave room for more trouble ahead because we do not have to be exploited by Japan’s calculated action.
We’d rather recommend that our government guide the Japanese lawmakers to Ulleung Island as well as the Dokdo islets. Upon touring the Dokdo Museum, the visitors will understand why the small islands belong to Korea. In the past, the Japanese argued that Dokdo belongs to Japan because it is not visible from Ulleung Island. In good weather, however, Dokdo can be seen from Ulleung Island. The procedure for entry to the small islands is not complicated, either. All that’s needed is an application to the Ulleung County authorities.
It is possible, however, that the Japanese lawmakers will not visit Dokdo because the act of applying to visit the islets could be translated as an acceptance of Korean authority over territory. In a dispute with Russia, Japan has banned its citizens from getting Russian visas to visit four disputed islands for the same reason.
But regardless of whether the Japanese accept our offer to guide them to Dokdo or not, we should propose it first. That would be the dignified action for the government to take, because we cannot tolerate a dispute over our territory.