Self-defense is nature’s oldest law
Of course, the Chinese boats were coming to Korea to fish. The Chinese fishing boats were so common in Korea that using them as a part of the plan didn’t require a stroke of genius. This illegal fishing by Chinese boats did not start yesterday. The geography book “Taekriji” by Lee Jung-hwan at the time of King Yeongjo discusses Chinese fishing. Wang Mang wrote that the blowfish caught in China is not as tasty as that caught in Korean waters. Since Korean fish yield high profits, more and more Chinese fishing boats operate in the Korean sea. When officers were sent to drive them away, they would sail out and wait for them to leave. The boats then came back and fished for sea cucumbers. While Lee Jung-hwan mentioned blowfish and sea cucumber, the waters around Baekryeong Island, Yeonpyeong Island and Sunwi Island are known for abundant croaker. Croaker fishing near Yeonpyeong Island dates back to the reign of King Injo. After the second Manchu invasion of Korea, Gen. Im Gyeong-eop was forced to help the Qing Dynasty’s campaign against the Ming Dynasty. When the boat stopped at Yeonpyeong Island for water and food, the general arranged thorny branches in the shallow water to catch the croakers. This is how croaker fishing began. Today, the fishermen of Yeonpyeong Island dedicate the ritual for good fishing fortune to Gen. Im Gyeong-eop.
Chinese fleets grew so big that the court of Joseon could not control them. Another record states that Chinese boats came in groups of thousands. The Chinese fishermen were armed with swords and pikes. The Joseon Dynasty appealed to the Chinese government to cooperate in the control of illegal fishing, but the request was not granted.
However, if the Joseon Dynasty had a stronger will to drive out the Chinese fishing boats, we wouldn’t have this reoccurrence after 250 years. Illegal operation of Chinese fishing boats should be thoroughly controlled as they are invading the territorial waters of Korea.
*The writer is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Lee Hoon-beom