Seoul protests Japan’s yearly event claiming Dokdo islets

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Seoul protests Japan’s yearly event claiming Dokdo islets

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Korean civic activists yesterday stage a rally to protest Japan’s claim to Dokdo islets, called Takeshima in Japan, outside the Shimane Prefecture Community Center, where the Takeshima Day event was held. By Seo Seung-wook

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade criticized Japan yesterday for holding a Takeshima Day event despite Korea’s objections in advance.

The event, which was hosted by the Shimane Prefecture Office, was attended by a record number of Japanese lawmakers and a government official.

“We once again sternly urge Japan to immediately abolish the ‘Takeshima Day’ Ordinance and cease its wrongful territorial claim on Dokdo,” said Cho Tai-young, spokesman at the Foreign Ministry, yesterday. “Japan should show a sincere attitude for the development of Korea-Japan relations by immediately dropping its wrongful and meaningless territorial claims on Dokdo, which is clearly part of our territory.”

Takeshima is Japan’s name for Dokdo. In 2005, Shimane Prefecture designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day.

The foreign ministry also called in Kurai Takashi, Japan’s deputy chief of mission in Seoul, and delivered a letter of protest.

The incoming government also weighed in. “It is President-elect Park Geun-hye’s definite view that Dokdo is Korean territory, which she won’t concede even an inch,” said Park Sun-kyoo, spokesman for the president-elect, yesterday. “[It’s not only President-elect Park’s belief] but every Korean’s belief.” The spokesman said that the president-elect puts a lot of importance on “trust” when it comes to Korea-Japan relations.

Yesterday’s was the eighth Takeshima Day held by Shimane Prefecture. Attendees included 19 lawmakers including Liberal Democratic Party members Hiroyuki Hosoda and Shinjiro Koizumi, who is the second son of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Also attending was a vice-ministerial government official, Aiko Shimajiri. It was the first time a central government official attended the event.

The Shimane Prefecture Office also sent invitations to conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other cabinet members but they did not attend. Throughout his general election campaign last year, Abe supported conservative and nationalistic policies such as upgrading the prefectural event to a government-level event.

“We don’t have to say more - Takeshima is Japanese territory,” Shimajiri said in a welcoming speech at the event. “[Whether or not I attend the event] is up to the Japanese government. It isn’t something for other countries [like Korea] to say.”

Relations with Japan have been strained under outgoing President Lee Myung-bak, who continuously raised thorny issues related to Japanese misdeeds in the past. Last August, Lee even visited the Dokdo islets, the first Korean leader to have done so, infuriating Tokyo.

Protests against Japan were held nationwide yesterday.

In front of the Japanese Embassy in Junghak-dong, central Seoul, around 350 citizens gathered and held a relay of press conferences. In the morning, Dokdo Volunteer Troops, a civic group with around 2,500 members, held a conference and urged Japan’s Shimane Prefecture Office not to hold the event. Other civic groups read out statements condemning the event.

Popular singer Kim Jang-hoon held a press conference in front of the Northeast Asian History Foundation in Migeun-dong, central Seoul, and proposed a campaign to have 10 million Koreans and 100 million foreigners upload a photo of Dokdo on their cellphones through Friday, Korea’s Independence Movement Day.

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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