Dokdo is a peaceful island of South Korea in the East Sea. It harbors deep scars from a painful past. Dokdo is a powerful symbol of Korean freedom and brings together all Koreans no matter what their politics are. However, the Japanese government, despite historical evidence proving that Dokdo belongs to South Korea, continues to claim that the island is part of Japan. But why is there so much interest in such a small yet beautiful island? Another reason why Dokdo is so important is that the area is great for fishing and may sit above enormous deposits of natural gas hydrate that could be worth billions of dollars.
25 Korean guards and three Korean lighthouse keepers are currently stationed on the island. Below we will break down the facts to prove once and for all that Dokdo belongs to South Korea.
The Illegal Taking of Dokdo by Japan
In 1904, driven by imperialist ambitions, Japan waged war against Russia. The following year, Japan illegally incorporated Dokdo as an outpost in order to keep watch over Russian naval fleets calling it a “no man’s land”. It was the first piece of Korean territory that was seized by Japan when it started its 1910-1945 colonial reign over the peninsula.
This illegal incorporation was executed in a clandestine manner through a public notice of a mere provincial government, not that of the central government. However, numerous historical Korean maps and documents, including the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms published in 1145 record Dokdo as being Korean territory since ancient times. Furthermore, the island has been recorded as being part of Korean territory since as early as 512.
Most significantly, the Geography Section of the Annals of King Sejong‘s Reign which was published in 1454 states…
“The islands of Usan (Dokdo) and Mureung (Ulleungdo) are located in the sea due east of the Hyeon (Uljin Country). The two islands are not far from each other so that one is visible from the other on a clear day.”
This document precisely pinpoints the location of Dokdo. Furthermore, Imperial Decree No.41 promulgated by Emperor Gojong in 1900 once again reaffirmed Korea’s sovereignty over Dokdo.
It clearly states that the governor of Uldo shall have jurisdiction over…Seokdo (Dokdo).
Dokdo is located in the East Sea
Another example of changes made during Japan’s occupation of the peninsula comes in the remaining of the East Sea. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) published a book titled “Limits of Oceans and Seas” back in 1929. In it, the names of the world’s oceans and seas were internationally standardized. However, in 1929, Korea was under Japanese occupation and therefore could not participate in the publication process.
This is why “Sea of Japan” became widely used internationally after the book’s release. However, the truth is that Korean called the sea, East Sea for over 2,000 years. In addition, world maps and even old Japanese maps call the sea either the East Sea or Joseon Sea. The sea is shared by not just South Korea and Japan but also Russia and North Korea. Therefore, it is inappropriate for the sea to be named after one single country. This is why countries around the world are using their own name regardless of what the IHO says. This is why the independent name of “Sea of Japan’ is being changed all around the world to the East Sea. This can be found in many textbooks, map publishers, websites, world maps, and so on.
Japanese Documents Prove Dokdo Belongs to South Korea
Japan never claimed title to Dokdo prior to 1905. On the contrary, numerous Japanese documents clearly show that Dokdo is not a part of Japanese territory. At the end of the 17th century, the Japanese government admitted in an official document that Dokdo was not a part of Japanese territory.
“No islands, not to speak of Takeshima (Ulleungdo) and Matsushima (Dokdo) belong to Tottori-han.”
In 1877, the Dajokan, the highest administrative body of the Japanese government at the time concluded after undertaking detailed nationwide land surveys, that Dokdo was unrelated to Japan.
This Dajokan document came to light in 1987 after being concealed for over a century. This document is clear evidence that the Japanese government authoritatively confirmed that Dokdo did not belong to Japan.
However, now Japan is changing its words by insisting that Dokdo has belonged to Japan all along. At first, Japan claimed that Dokdo was a “no man’s land”. Now they claim that Dokdo has always been a part of its inherent territory.
The World Agrees that Dokdo is a part of Korea
Dokdo was the first to fall prey to Japan’s usurpation of Korea. In 1945, World War II came to an end. After being defeated, Japan was expelled from all territories in accordance with the post-war arrangements made at Cairo and Potsdam. Dokdo was returned to the people of South Korea.
The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Instruction Note (SCAPIN) 677 issued in 1946 unequivocally declared Dokdo to be placed under Korea’s administrative jurisdiction. Dokdo is the very symbol of the restoration of Korea’s sovereignty. No nation in the world other than Japan questions Dokdo as being Korean territory returned after having been usurped.
Hopefully, Japan will one day stand humbly before the truth of history and become a partner moving forward together towards a brighter future.