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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Japan's Dispute With South Korea Over The Dokdo Islands

While searching through old images of maps the other day, I saw curious lines about how such and such map did not depict Dokdo.

What the heck is Dokdo?

A quick Google search later, and I find yet another set of islands that Japan has dispute with regarding ownership.

Although under the sovereignty of Korea, Japan disputes its ownership.

Dokto… is known in Korea as Liancourt Rocks…. Which doesn’t sound very Korean, does it?

“Discovered” by French sailor after almost wrecking their ship Le Liancourt on the 4.6-million-year pile of volcanic rock back in 1849AD… Korea calls the small group of islets in the Sea of Japan Hangul (which means solitary island), while the Japanese call it Takeshima (bamboo island)… which is all very curious, considering there’s more than one island. Still, more curious yet, South Korea also calls the islands Liancourt Rocks, while Japan uses the term Dokdo.

Yup - clear as mud.

It’s two main islands: in Korean - Seodo (Western Island) and Dongdo (Eastern Island); while the Japanese known them as Ojima (男島, Male Island) and Mejima (女島, Female Island) sitting apart from each other by a scant 151 meters (495 feet).

In the photo at the very above, the Western/Ojima Island is to the right, the Eastern/Mejima on the left. View is from the North looking south.

The Western/Male Island is the larger with a wider base and taller peak, but the Eastern/Female Island has more usable surface area. All told, however, the rocky island chain consist of some 90 islets and reefs, with about 37 of them recognized as permanent land, depending on storms seemingly able to swamp the rest with ease.

Now… although the nearest Korean island (Ulleung-do) is only 87.4 kilometers (47-2 nautical miles) from these isles, and Japan’s nearest island is Oki Islands some 157 kilometers (85 nautical miles) away, Japan’s main land is actually closer than is Korea… 211 kilometers (114 nautical miles) versus 216.8 kilometers (117.1 nautical miles).

While my initial reaction to who owns what pile of rocks so far away would be who cares, it is tempered in the fact that ownership allows a more wide-ranging national support system that could keep away foreign countries from its borders. So it is important. Except that Korea and Japan are currently allies.

What is intriguing however, is that there is purported to be pockets of natural gas in the area surrounding these islets of Liancourt Rocks. There are also rich fishing grounds.

For the record, Korea does have a permanent installation there – the South Korean Police Guards are on the Eastern Island.

However, that presents its own problem, as the sewage water treatment system there for the police has malfunctioned, meaning that sewage waste is being dumped directly into the water, polluting it.

A Korean chap named Choi Jong-duk moved there in 1965 to live and to fish, and helped install facilities in 1968. In 1981, he changed his official address to Liancourt Rocks, making him the first person to live there officially. Though he died in 1987, his daughter and son-in-law moved there from 1985 to 1992, when they moved out. Two other Koreans moved there as permanent residents in 1991, and continue to live there.

With those two—Kim Sung-do and Kim Shin-yeol—and 37 South Korean national police, that’s the entire human make-up of the island, though some 1,600 visitors have gone to the islets.

There is one ferry that travels to the islands every day— costing about US$250 per person, though approval is required from the South Korean government.

Thirty-seven of South Korea's police are stationed and bored to death here.
Liancourt Rocks currently has a lighthouse, police building/barracks (see image above), post box, and a helicopter pad… and a large South Korean flag flying just in case you were wondering who owns it. There are also two desalinization plants that produce 28 tons of clean water every day. And… there are South Korean telecommunications cellular towers on the rocks.

As mentioned, these are volcanic rocks, covered with a thin layer of soil and moss.

There are 49 plant species, 107 bird species, 93 insect species, as well as 160 algal and 368 invertebrate species.

While there was at one time real indigenous trees on the islands, over-harvesting and bombing drills from WWII wiped those out… though there has been introduction of trees and plants by the Koreans… and there are reportedly 10 spindle trees that are supposed to range in age from 100 to 120 years.

If being so far away from civilization wasn’t enough to make the Korean police force go stir crazy (I’m going to polish my gun… again - I would kill for a woman to be on this island), the islands get a heck of a lot of rain – some 1,324 mm (52.1-inches) of rain a year. And sometimes snow.

The waters around the islets ranges from 10C (50F) to 24C (75F)… so it’s not that bad… except that there are a lot of swells around the islets… as that ferry I mentioned earlier can really only , on average, dock once every 40 days of the year. Still… it’s a warm and humid climate.

Because everybody loves a swell island or 37, there is that dispute between Japan and Korea.

Korea says it can show it’s records mention these islands, though the references call them Usan-do.

The Japanese… well, they have claimed Usan-do, calling it Jukdo, because they have documents references said islands in their historical data. Japan also mentions a non-existent island between Ulleung-do and Korea, too.

Dokdo, was never mentioned as the name of a bunch of islands by Japan, however, until 1904.

At that time, Korea was weak, Japan was in the process of defeating global power Russia in a war, and thought very highly of itself… and probably that’s why it made legal claim to the Dokdo islands back in 1905AD.

And, since Japan calls the island Takeshima - Bamboo Island... was there really bamboo grown there when it's really mostly just a thin layer of soil and moss?

Still… if one wants to be a stickler, possession is 9/10ths of the law…

Hope you enjoyed the three-hour tour,

Andrew (Mary Ann AND Ginger) Joseph
PS: Everything taken and rewritten from Wikipedia.

Andrew (Mary Ann AND Ginger) Joseph

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