Facts about Dokdo

A port city in the west of Korea
Located in the mid-west coast of the Korean peninsula

Known as a gateway city of Korea

Incheon was forced to open its port by the western powers in the late 19th century.

Sadly, it later turned into a battlefield between foreign powers. 

A small island in the East Sea at the eastern end of Korea

Dokdo was the first Korean territory that was affected by Japanese imperialism

It has a painful history of being used as a logistics base for Japan.  

The two faraway places of Incheon and Dokdo share a commonality.
They both carry the traces of the Japanese Occupation Period.

The Korean people tend to show a strong reaction to the Dokdo issue.

Koreans have a special attachment to Dokdo.

What makes Dokdo more special than any other islands in Korea?

Here we will give answers to the 9 most frequently asked questions about Dokdo.

1. What does Dokdo mean to the Korean people?
An island at the eastern end of Korea

Dokdo is close to another Korean island, Ulleungdo.
In good weather, it is clearly visible to the naked eye from Ulleungdo.  

Dokdo is home to various species of ocean life.

Korea has been legitimately exercising its sovereignty over Dokdo.

Korean police and military personnel protect the airspace and waters around Dokdo.

Korean national laws are being enforced on Dokdo.

There are also official Korean residents on Dokdo.

Each year, over 130 thousand Korean tourists visit Dokdo.

Under international law, Dokdo undoubtedly belongs to Korea. 

The Japanese Occupation Period (1910 – 1945)

Japan took control of Dokdo even before its annexation of Korea.

Nearly 70 years have passed since the independence of Korea.

Japan is still claiming sovereignty over Dokdo. 

With its beautiful natural environment, Dokdo gives happiness to the Korean people.

At the same time, it conjures up the painful memories of Japanese colonial rule.

To the Korean people, Dokdo is a symbol of their independence and sovereignty.

That is why Koreans have a special attachment to Dokdo.

2. When and why did Japan take over Dokdo?

Japan recognized the strategic value of Dokdo in 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War.

“Dokdo is in a great strategic location to establish a watchtower and install radio or submarine cables to detect the movements of enemy ships.”
- Yamaza Enjiro, Director of the Political Affairs Bureau, Japan 

Japan began attempting to incorporate Dokdo in order to defeat the Russian fleet.

In 1904, Japan forced Korea to sign a protocol to use Korea as a logistics base during the war.

In 1905, Japan incorporated Dokdo through the Shimane Prefecture’s public notice #40.

The incorporation was initiated without any legitimate procedure.  

It was a violation of Korea’s long established sovereignty over Dokdo.

Thus, Dokdo is clearly a Korean territory under international law.

3. Is there a historical foundation for Korea exerting sovereignty over Dokdo before 1905?

Yes, here it is.

“The Ulleungdo Boundary Dispute”
This book recorded interactions between the Korean and Japanese governments in the 17th century.

In 1693, Japanese fishermen from the Tottori Domain were fishing around Ulleungdo.

They ended up getting caught by Ahn Yong-Bok and other Korean fishermen.

Ahn travelled to Japan and objected to the intrusion of Japanese fishermen on Ulleungdo.

Meanwhile, Japanese fishermen complained to the Japanese government about Korean fishermen in the area.

The Japanese government asked the Tottori Domain to investigate the sovereignty of Ulleungdo.

So, the Tottori Domain initiated interaction with the Korean government. This interaction is referred to as “the Ulleungdo Boundary Dispute” in historical records.

Consequently, the Tottori Domain submitted a report to the Japanese government stating that Ulleungdo and Dokdo did not belong to their domain.
The Japanese government revoked permission for the passage of Japanese ships to Ulleungdo.

This decision concluded the dispute between the two countries.

It reaffirmed that Dokdo and Ulleungdo belonged to Korea.

In the late 19th century, some Japanese were caught illegally logging in Ulleungdo. 

The Korean Empire asked Japan to remove Japanese loggers from the island.

It also decided to strengthen its administrative control over Ulleungdo.

This decision was published as Royal Edict No.41 in an official gazette in 1900.

Article 2 of this edict states the following. 
“… The areas of jurisdiction include all parts of Ulleungdo and Dokdo.”
This article clearly indicates that Korea exercised jurisdiction over both islands.

4. Is there concrete historical evidence to prove that Dokdo is a Korean territory?

There are many official government documents to prove it.
Sejong Sillok Jiriji (1454)
Sinjeung Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam (1531)
Dongguk Munheonbigo (1770)
Mangi Yoram (1808)
Jeungbo Munheonbigo (1908)

Many government-issued Korean documents have various records of Dokdo.

All of this documentation reflects that Korea has long recognized Dokdo as its territory.

5. Does Japan have evidence that proves its sovereignty over Dokdo?

Onshu Shicho Goki (Records on Observations in Oki Province)
An old Japanese document compiled in 1667 by a Japanese local official

It is the oldest Japanese document to record Japan’s stance on Dokdo.

“The Oki Island marks the northwestern boundary of Japan.”

This document proves that Japan excluded Dokdo from its territorial boundaries.

Japan presents an ancient Japanese map as its evidence.

Kaisei Nippon Yochi Rotei Zenzu (1779)
(Revised Complete Map of Japanese Lands and Roads)

This map was produced by an individual, not the Japanese government.

The cartographer said that he consulted the Onshu Shicho Goki.

Dai Nihon Enkai Yochi Zenzu (1821), a large map from a survey during the Edo Period
(Map of Japan’s Costal Areas)

This comprehensive map also did not specify Dokdo. 

Neither the people nor the government of Japan perceived Dokdo as their territory.

On the other hand, many ancient Korean maps marked Dokdo with its old name “Usando.”

This indicates that Korea has long recognized Dokdo as its territory.

6. What grounds does Japan have for its claim over Dokdo?

Japan argues that Korea renounced its sovereignty by evacuating residents from the islands. 

The evacuation of the residents was only a part of a security policy during Joseon.

The evacuation decision was to protect the people from the repeated invasions of pirates. 

Thus, the Joseon government asked the Ulleungdo residents to move to the mainland.

It was by no means a renunciation of its sovereignty, but only a temporary policy to protect the people.

Until this policy ceased, the Joseon government regularly sent its officials to the islands.

Despite the evacuation, Joseon maintained its governance of the islands.  

Japan also attempts to interpret the Treaty of San Francisco (1951) to its own advantage.

In 1946, the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers commanded Japan to abandon its administrative authority over Dokdo.

This command banned Japanese vessels or personnel from approaching within 12 miles of Dokdo.

“Japan shall recognize the independence of Korea.”

“Japan shall renounce all right, title and claim to Korea, including Jejudo, Geomundo and Ulleungdo.”
- Article 2 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951)

Japan asserts that Dokdo was not included in the list.

Japan uses this interpretation as proof that Dokdo does not belong to Korea.

Even islands bigger than Dokdo were not specifically listed in the treaty. Thus, such an argument is absurd.

7. Did Korea fully recover its sovereignty over Dokdo after independence?

Japan will be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed.”
- Cairo Declaration (1943)

The declaration indicates that Korea fully recovered its sovereign rights over its territories.

Dokdo is no exception.

8. What is the most decisive evidence that proves Korean sovereignty over Dokdo?

The 1877 Daijokan directive assured that Dokdo did not belong to Japan.

During the Meiji Era, the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs made an inquiry to the Daijokan.

The Daijokan was then the highest administrative body. The inquiry was about the sovereignty of Ulleungdo and Dokdo.

Based on “the Ulleungdo Boundary Dispute,” the Daijokan stated the following. 

“Be assured that either Ulleungdo or Dokdo has no relation to Japan.”

About 7 years before, in 1870, a Japanese official also filed a similar report.

In the report titled “Chosenkoku Kosai-Shimatsu Naitansho,” he concluded that Ulleungdo and Dokdo had nothing to do with Japan.

“How Takeshima (Ulleungdo) and Matsushima (Dokdo) became annexed to Joseon”

This statement shows that Japan recognized Ulleungdo and Dokdo as Korean territories.
There was no disagreement over the sovereignty of these islands between Korea and Japan.

9. If Dokdo is clearly a Korean territory, why does it refuse Japan’s proposal to bring the issue to the International Court of Justice?

Korea has long established its sovereignty over Dokdo.

There is no reason for Korea to prove its own sovereignty to the court.

Japan is constantly making claims of sovereignty over Dokdo.

There is a real reason why Japan wants to take this issue to the international court.

Japan continues to agitate the Korean media and the Korean people.

Japan is trying to make Dokdo a contested region.

The result of taking this issue to the court is clear.

Dokdo will be categorized as a contested region.

Dokdo will be brought into an unwanted territorial dispute.

This goes against our will to protect our territory and peace in Northeast Asia.

These nine answers explain why Koreans tend to have sensitive reactions to the Dokdo issue.

Dokdo is not a simple matter of a territorial dispute between Korea and Japan.

It is instead a common issue of peace among all humanity.

Japanese imperialism took the lives of many innocent people, and Japan has shown no regret for its past actions.

The international community should encourage Japan to reflect on its history.

Otherwise, imperialistic movements in Japan may gain momentum again.

Together, we should make it clear that imperialism will no longer be tolerated.

To the Korean people, Dokdo is a reminder of the Japanese Occupation Period.

VANK and its members will continue to work hard to overcome the legacy of Japanese imperialism.

We will further contribute to maintaining world peace.

We hope for your support in our effort to protect Dokdo.

Your support will create peace in Northeast Asia.


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