A calm reaction is key

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A calm reaction is key

A strong reaction is not always in a country’s best interest. That’s why we have consistently urged the government to respond to Japan’s irrational claims to the Dokdo islets as calmly - and resolutely - as possible. Rather than becoming entangled in Japan’s calculations, it would be better for us to take practical measures such as constructing a heliport on the islets and building seawall around them. Dokdo is irrefutably our territory not only in terms of history and geography but also international law.

Defying our government’s stern warnings, three Japanese lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party arrived at Gimpo International Airport yesterday to visit Ulleung Island in an effort to promote their claims to Dokdo. But they decided to return to Japan after the Korean government gave them an ultimatum. The Japanese may smile at the trophies they have collected this time around: the outrage expressed by Korean politicians and the public over their visit, an escalation of anti-Korean sentiment among Japanese netizens in particular and deepening interest in the Dokdo issue among the Japanese.

Yoshitaka Shindo, the leader of the visiting group, vehemently argued that the Joseon Dynasty royal protocols looted by imperial Japan should not be returned to Korea. At a political event in Japan February, he demanded that a governmental organization be set up to handle the Dokdo matter. In an embodiment of chauvinistic nationalism and militarism, he even stormed out of a meeting in April - when Japan’s House of Representatives adopted a declaration to commemorate 150 years of exchanges between Japan and Germany - on the grounds that the document contained regret over World War II atrocities further exacerbated by the 1940 Axis Pact. It is totally absurd for us to sit with Japan, as he desires, and let them turn Dokdo into a “territory in dispute.”

We suggested that our government guide the visiting Japanese lawmakers to Dokdo because their visit there would require permission from Ulleung authorities and that would amount to an admission of the islets as our territory. Our government did not have to make a fuss over their planned visit to Ulleung Island because we cannot avert their plans to visit the islets. Our emotional overreaction will only backfire.

A cold wind will blow through the two countries. But populist reactions from the political community will not be good for our national interests. The government must approach the issue calmly and firmly, including some measures to prove our effective control of Dokdo.
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