The beautiful island that is located at the eastern end of Korea is Korea’s natural monument number 336. It is composed of two islands and 89 annexed islands, which is a shelter for migratory birds and a habitat for creatures. Can you guess where it is? ‘Following sea route 80 Kilometer-away south-east from Ulleungdo,’ according to the lyrics of “Dokdo is our land.”
Dokdo is a volcanic island that was made from solidifying lava from the seabed. Its annual mean temperature is 12℃ and the annual mean precipitation is 1,240mm. From the old days, Dokdo has been recognized as part of Ulleungdo and it is recorded that Dokdo was a part of Usan-guk, which was a small country in the Silla period.
Dokdo was also recorded as Choseon’s territory in Choseon’s government publication, such as Sejong Sillok Jiriji (Geography Section of the Annals of King Sejong’s Reign), and Sinjeung Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam (Revised and Augmented Survey of the Geography of Korea) and other history books. D’Anville, who was a geographer to the King of France, recorded Dokdo as territory of Korea in his entire map of Choseon in the eighteenth century.
In spite of this historical evidence, a country claims Dokdo is not the territory of Korea by the geographical facts and international legal standards. That country is none other than Japan. Japan insists Dokdo has been their territory for quite some time, calling it ‘Takeshima,’ instead of Dokdo. They have gone so far as to put it in their history and geography textbooks and even enact the day of Takeshima. Though the fact that Dokdo is Korea’s territory was even recorded in Japan’s old documents, they don’t seem to admit it.
The Korean government’s position is very firm against Japan, trying to protect Dokdo’s sovereignty and act carefully and strictly without any provocation. For instance, our government strongly rejected Japan’s proposal to submit the Dokdo dispute to the International Court of Justice in 1954. The Korean government states that ‘Korea has had dominium over Dokdo and we don’t have to prove this,’ and recently it announced and promoted that ‘Dokdo is indeed Korean territory’ by making many
documentaries, Christmas seals and stamps or celebrating the day of Dokdo.
There are many famous people like Seo Kyung-duk and Kim Jang-hoon who are known as Dokdo’s gatekeeper who have become involved. They have made Dokdo advertisements and released them internationally at Times Square, New York City. Also many Koreans are participating in Dokdo promotions by creating UCC, pushing ‘like’ button in Facebook and retweeting Dokdo messages in Twitter.
Why do we make such a big deal and try to protect Dokdo? Dokdo has 4 major values, which are fish/ecology, underground resources, military strategy and economy. First, there is the issue of fishing rights around Dokdo, which is considered a rich fishing ground. It is located in the blue belt and intersects a cold and warm current, so there are various marine creatures and seaweeds to attract fish. In addition, Dokdo’s natural environment is different from that of the Korean peninsula, which makes Dokdo a shelter to migratory birds and other rare creatures. Dokdo is indeed very important in ecology too. Second, there are rich underground resources buried around Dokdo, and the representative one is methane hydrate, which is a solidification of natural gas methane. Dokdo has large amounts of resources, and there is some indication that there is even oil. Based on discoveries and trends of oil strikes, we can assume with great confidence that there is oil around Dokdo. It also has some geographical value because Dokdo is an exposed seamount created by lava, which is a very rare case. Third, Dokdo is a military strategic point due to its proximity to Russia, Japan and North Korea. Because of these types of benefits, it is also economically valuable.
How much do you know about Dokdo? The following quiz questions are simple O/X which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides about Dokdo’s basic information, history and law. Test your knowledge about Dokdo.
|1. Dokdo is the only island where the weather is fair in Ulleungdo.
|2. The name, Usando, first appeared in the Silla Dynasty.
|3. In 1906, a Country Magistrate Sim Heung-taek of Uldo-gun heard that Dokdo had been incorporated into Japanese territory. He submitted a report to the governor of Gangwon-do the very next day.
|4. After Japans’ defeat, when the alliance governed, Dokdo belonged to Japan’s range of rule and administration.
|5. Dokdo consists of 2 islands which are Dongdo and Seodo.
|6. Dokdo is located about 157.5km southeast of Ulleungdo.
|7. Dokdo’s geological features are mainly made of basalt.
|8. The whole island of Dokdo is designated as natural monument number 336.
|9. To enter Dokdo, you have to get permission from Ulleungdo.
|10. The International Court of Justice rules based upon the principle of compulsory jurisdiction which is formed by one side’s rule.
The answers are 1.O/2.X/3.O/4.X/5.X/6.X/7.O/8.O/9.X/10.X. If you want a detailed explanation, visit the webpage of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade-Dokdo (http://dokdo.mofat.go.kr). < Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
Check your score. Do you just say ‘Dokdo is Korean territory’ while you actually don’t know much about it? What will you say when somebody asks why Dokdo is Korean territory? Koreans take the dominium of Dokdo for granted because it was from the old days, but for non-Koreans it is not enough. Currently Dokdo is Korean territory, but if Japan insists its dominium continuously, the international community will recognize that Dokdo is disputed territory as Japan insists it has been for years. Japan also has disputes with Taiwan and China for the Pinnacle Islands, and Russia for the Kuril Islands. These situations are to be handed over to the Court of International Justice to settle the territory issues for disputed areas. Then they might put up Dokdo as a bargaining tool when Korea and Japan negotiate the EEZ boundary set-up in the near future.
How can we protect Dokdo while we don’t know its history, basic information or reason why Dokdo is Korean territory, no matter how much we press the ‘like’ button, retweet, and watch Dokdo promotion documentaries?
We have to be knowledgeable about Dokdo to fairly claim it is ours. Furthermore, the government has to strengthen the claim more. There is an example of Russia, which was embroiled in a territorial dispute about the Kuril Islands with Japan. Russia asserts the ownership of the Islands by allocating the newest equipment to the Kuril Islands, and I propose we also have to devise a stronger measure to insist the ownership of Dokdo.
Schools have to teach more about the history of Dokdo. Even though students may not take it as seriously as we like to believe, still they would think about the issue once more before they fully realize its importance. Each organization also has to hold more festivals and exhibitions and gather people’s attention and participation. We should try to make people get the information easily about these shows by doing public activities. There are many quality exhibitions and galleries about Dokdo and its history in Seoul, but the participation rate is low due to the lack of advertisement. People are missing out on a good chance.
So, the most important thing is voluntarily public interest. We have to articulate our thoughts by learning Dokdo, not just claim that it is ours whenever Japan provokes us. You can learn easily on the webpage of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade-Dokdo and cyber-Dokdo. There are 10 different language translations, so we should tell our international friends as well. There are also many applications that have been developed, where we can find out information and read news articles about Dokdo. But most importantly, it is all up to us. We are the ones who will lead the society, so we should help ourselves and our nation and protect Dokdo.
It is not enough to press ‘like’ button or retweet on SNS when it becomes a truly important issue. If you don’t care if we take Dokdo’s ownership for granted or not, then one day it could no longer be our territory. Now, everybody should stand up as a nation and protect our TERRITORY.