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Spotlight to the Issue, Dokdo

   
 
  ▲ Park Jong Woo, midfielder of the Korean Olympics football team, was barred from receiving a bronze medal.  
 
The 2012 London Olympics had the spotlight of this year and it has been a great chance to see people rooting for their national teams. The main idea of the Olympics is to have a chance to prove their country's strength and basically to compete with others in the spirit of good sportmanship. However, unlike other teams, South Korea and Japan are in a situation where they cannot smile. It is because the Dokdo dispute has surfaced once again. Recently, Park Jong Woo, midfielder of the Korean Olympics football team, was barred from receiving a bronze medal. The point was that he held out a sign that read, Dokdo is Korean's territory. This 'political' ceremony was objected by Japan which ignited the problem.


Korea and Japan is still arguing about the territorial claim over Dokdo. Many arguments occurred when Japan wrote that Dokdo is their territory on the Defense White Paper. The Defense White Paper is a book that holds the military force comparison data with nearby countries, an annual investigation of any changes in military strength and other important information. Overall, it is a very important book that is related with the politics. Apart from this, one of the biggest issue is that Japan has been including Dokdo, also known as Dakeshima in Japanese, in the book for three years. Since 2005, Japan has noted that Dakeshima is a part of their northern territory and that the dispute between Japan and Korea has not been resolved. Due to this sudden official claim, Korean citizens were angered by the movement and made it an issue on the cyber space. This led the Korean government to make a first request to edit the Defense White Book. This event was not as serious as it is now, but it was enough to make the Korean people angry of Japan's irresponsible attitude.
 We can notice now that Dokdo is a pretty serious issue in Korea right now. There are movements in the government to secure our rightful territory. There is a reason why the government is trying to keep it safe from Japanese's hands. It is because Dokdo is a very important island that holds a lot of resources. First of all, it is an island with tons of natural resources such as fish and minerals. Next, it is one of the places where past rock formation is clearly visible thus useful for geographical studies. However, most importantly, it is an island that can act as a base to look for any military movements in nearby countries such as Russia, Japan and the North Korea. The government has already set up high-performance air defense radar at Dokdo to use as a strategic base. This base provides any navy, air force movements in nearby countries and military information for national security.


Nevertheless, despite the importance of the island, many ask why the Korean government is not acting out compared to Japan. The Japanese government has been teaching middle, high school students with textbooks that notified that Dokdo is indeed a territory of Japan. Also, they submitted a report to the US that claims their rights over Dokdo. Unlike Japan, Korea is not reacting much because Dokdo is indeed our land. There is a lot of evidence that Dokdo is a territory that belongs to Korea, the rightful owner of the island. First of all, according to the International Court of Justice, any land with no certain owner is given to those who have the effective control over the land. For instance, Norway and Denmark had an international dispute over the claim of Eastern Greenland. Norway claimed that East Greenland was a land with no owner claiming that it was theirs. However the International Court of Justice thought otherwise and held the hands of Denmark which had the effective control over the entire region. Korea also has the full control of Dokdo as there are people living in the island, built light houses and bases to use as a watch tower.


To add on, there is enough historical evidence that proves Dokdo to be a territory of Korea that was forcefully taken by the Japanese during the era of Imperial Rule. On the maps of 17th and 18th century, Dokdo is marked to be Korean territory. Moreover, a letter from Taejeonggwan, the highest governmental organization at the time, officially claims that Dokdo and Ulleungdo belong to Korean territory.


Even with historical background and a sufficient amount of evidence to support our territorial claim, Japan is denying all evidence, which is starting to make people approach the issue emotionally. Most Koreans have negative feelings towards Japan because of the oppression in the past. During the Imperial Rule of Japan, Koreans were forced to change their last names to Japanese ones to speed up their plan to educate citizens to hail the Japanese emperor. The citizens of Korea were politically oppressed and those who denied to change their names were either excluded from food distribution or taken to the army. Other inhumane actions during the Imperial Rule included taking People to experimental labs to be used as test subjects for research. Many people suffered from the experiments and died. Also, women were taken to the army to serve as sex slaves which are still a big issue now. Women were tricked or were forcefully taken and had to spend 10~15 years in an unsanitary room. Those who lived and served as a sex slave could not live a normal life after being freed. This issue is one of the everlasting disputes that Japan is yet to apologize for.


   
 
  ▲ The president of Korea Lee Myoung-bak(left) is holding hands with the Japanese prime minister Noda Yoshiko (right)  
 
The unapologetic attitude of Japan is slowly making the citizens of Korea and the world angry. This could be one of the main reasons why the dispute is not ending between the two countries or maybe simply because Korea has been under Japanese control for over 4 decades. Overall, to reduce any emotional friction of the two countries, Japan must first officially apologize for their act of inhumanity and the two governments must become more involved in foreign policy.

Lee Dong-jun  jack222@dongguk.edu

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  • jdqnpuixo@gmail.com 2013-09-28 14:24:28

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