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Sunday, February 27, 2005

You say Takeshima, I say Tokto, let's call the whole thing off

It's good to see that the Japanese are dredging up the question of Tokto again as it gives me a chance to write a topical post on the subject rather than just a random rant. For those who want to know, Tokto (or the Liancourt Rocks as they are quaintly known in English) refers to a collection of rocky outcrops in the sea east of the Korean peninsula (thus between said peninsula and the Japanese archipelago) claimed by both Korea and Japan but occupied by Korean troops. Lost Nomad has a nice picture, which while making Tokto look as pretty as possible, shows the general uninhabitability of this collection of rocks.

So, we have some rocks in the middle of the sea with very little strategic significance (no harbour, no landing strip, little in the way of fresh water I assume) but for some reason they are important enough for the Japanese ambassador in Korea to say baldly:
"There exists a clear difference in views between South Korea and Japan over the issue of Takeshima [Tokto],’’ Ambassador Toshiyuki Takano was quoted as saying in a meeting with foreign reporters in Seoul. "It is historically and legally Japan’s territory."
They are also important enough for the response in Korea to be one of outrage, even in a left-leaning newspaper such as Hankyoreh:
They have essentially invaded our territory; they just haven't done it with gun and sword... Japan's doublefaced, shameless behavior should be tolerated no longer. Japan needs to be clearly warned that depending on the situation, Korean-Japanese relations could need a complete reevaluation.
So what is it that gets such a broad spectrum of people from the Korean [nationalist] left to Japanese government officials so excited about these rocks? Well, before I get to that I have to admit that the point of this post is really to plug an excellent article by Han Kyu-han (in Korean) that appeared in Ta Hamkke last August at the time of the last minor blow-up over Tokto.

The author does an excellent job of looking at the actual history of Tokto and the interest of Koreans in it. He shows that attempts by nationalist historians to claim that Tokto was considered to be 'Korean' territory back in the Silla period (668-935 AD) are highly spurious. The references cited from the Samguk sagi history do not refer to Tokto but to the much bigger island of Ullûngdo and even that wasn't considered part of the Silla kingdom but as a separate country (named Usan'guk, which bizarrely sounds like 'land of the umbrellas' in modern Korean). Later kingdoms on the Korean peninsula generally continued to show a lack of knowledge or interest in Tokto and at the end of the Chosôn dynasty when renowned patriot Min Yông-hwan saw the islets he called them "Japanese islands".

Han points out that the real interest in Tokto began in the 1950s under Syngman Rhee when a fierce fishing war developed between Japan and South Korea. Apparently, between 1947 and 1962 some 282 Japanese fishing boats were seized, around 3500 Japanese fishermen were detained and eight were killed. So the interest in Tokto has to be understood as part of the process of formation of South Korea's modern nation state. More precisely, the collection of rocks in the middle of the sea is important to the Korean ruling class as a nationalist symbol that can always be revived to turn people's attention toward old anti-Japanese feelings. Although the Japanese state is somewhat different to South Korea (as an erstwhile coloniser rather than a post-colonial nationalist regime), the Japanese ruling class seems to view Tokto in much the same way: as a means for mobilising nationalist sentiment. As Han puts it:
The rulers of both South Korea and Japan consistently use the Tokto problem as a means of expanding and reproducing nationalist feelings. South Korean leaders are constantly promoting the fear that Japan is about to attack Tokto at any moment. But this is nothing more than ideology.
Actually, as he points out, previous South Korean governments have not always shown that much patriotic love for Tokto - during negotiations with the Japanese in the 1960s, Kim Jong-pil apparently offered blow it up as a solution.

This is not, of course, to minimise the dangers of Japan's recent turn to the right and its attempts to rebuild itself as a major military power (particularly with its participation in the Iraq quagmire, outlined brilliantly by Gavan McCormack in NLR 29). But the only way for Koreans to fight this is to ignore the nationalist rhetoric peddled by politicians and commentators and practise solidarity with ordinary Japanese people who will also suffer at the hands of a new era of Japanese militarism.

3 Comments:

At April 14, 2005 7:26 PM, Blogger Psyche19 said...

yes, I totally agree that it's just about old anti-japaness feelings. However,even through I abhor thier government, I really do like the country. It's a pretty sight they got. lol Anyhow, I'd like to mention that there is a Japanese document that actually orders map makers to put Tokto as Korean Territory. I can not remember the whole thing. But it says somethin' like "Do not include Tokto as Japanese Territory, for it leagally belongs to Korea." But, y'know, Japanese gov have to have what they want. pretty idiotic, if you ask my opinion. ^^;;

 
At April 27, 2005 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, nice articles you have here, Kotaji, and also an interesting read with snappy comments by Mr. Han, Kyu Han. Especially the social critique about the nationalists' abuse of the Tokdo-Takeshima issue was interesting. But isn't that already common knowledge. Responding to it in a reactionary manner doesn't exclude other consequences. Yet I must praise all three of you for your high-mindedness rising above your immediate ethnic ties. How noble, how selfless, how inspiring ! I regret how such a heart warming oration so great in spirit can also lack in historical accuracy, logical precision, and tainted with its own not-so-selfless agenda. I shall be brief, for time is a commodity here as anywhere else.

quote:
"That Tokto was considered to be 'Korean' territory back in the Silla period (668-935 AD) are highly spurious."

1. Silla period begins much earlier than 668 CE. If you are not sure when it began, better leave the years blank rather than plug in inaccurate years; the ones you have there are the post three kingdom period Shilla. Like you and me, many others seek knowledge & guidance from the web; so let's not mislead. Also 'spurious' is a highly biased, inaccurate word; better use 'possible, even probable, yet confirmed by nothing else than circumstantial assumptions.'

quote:
"The references cited from the Samguk sagi history do not refer to Tokto but to the much bigger island of Ullûngdo and even that wasn't considered part of the Silla kingdom but as a separate country."

2. Usan-gook was conquored in 512 CE. Begin to see the problem, Kotaji ? If you've read much history written in Chinese characters, you might have observed that there can be many 'gooks' within and under an overpowering state. Are you denying the possibility of a colonized Usan 'gook' under Silla control ?

All you need is a small state to pick on and to collect tribute to qualify as one; a small state yet skilled enough to navigate an area of 50 nautical mile radius on its whaling/sealing expeditions. Hence your 'gook' criticism, together with the "There was no Tokdo within Usan sphere of influence" loses ground, sorry.

3. Archeological studies of the early Silla region produced a stone engraving depicting a sea-faring people hunting whales. Not later than the late bronze era, those people went far out to sea for the big hunt. If travel by ship from Uljin to Usan 'gook' was possible, which is about 125 km, would a shorter trip of 90 km from Usan to Tokdo be that hard ? Mind you from Ullungdo out to sea, Tokdo is the closed piece of land one can find in all directions. Seals used to be a highly sought after commodity in at least the period from 1st c. BCE to 3rd c. CE. You can answer that yourself.

4. Another archeological study on Ullungdo sites have shown the earthenware were in close parallel with those found in Shilla area. No further details for now, but that would leave you something to ponder about. Why does HKH et al. ignore the possibility of long-range seafaring by early Shilla - early Usan bronze wielding peoples ? Anyone relying on fishing for a living will unavoidably discover Tokdo without being very adventurous. Just following the fish and deals and you'll find yourself in Tokdo waters with out even trying. Anything amounting to a state would have exercised control over Tokdo.

Just think about it. Coming to Ulung Is. from the coast 125 km was doable. What could be difficult about another 90 km ? Even a Japanese ship owned by Otani Takayoshi inadvertently stumbled upon the island from Oki island 160 km away in 1617 all the way from Yonako (present day west of Tottori).

One might imagine Usan to be a backward pocket of barbarians caught on a small island from the late glacial period, but archeology again shows highly sophisticated pottery, both before and after Shilla's invasion in 512 CE.

quote:
"Later kingdoms on the Korean peninsula generally continued to show a lack of knowledge or interest in Tokto."

5. Sorry again, Kotaji, HKH mislead you again with his flashy yet shallow historical knowledge. Do people actually read primary sources these days, and think before committing anything to writing ? My goodness, where has civilization come to ? Read the sources please before you make a meaningful comment. Some examples that clearly show the dynastic kingdoms were indeed highly concerned about Ullungdo Tokdo.

930 CE: Attaches Ullung Island to the royal house of Koryo
1004 CE: A Ullung resident visits Japan
1018 CE: Defends Usan gook residents from Jurchen attack]
1010-1031 CE: Relocates Ullung residents due to Jurchen invasion
1019 CE: Have Usan returnees from Jurchen return to Usan
1032-1034 CE: The son of the lord of Ullungdo visits the island.
1123 CE: Yi, Yang Shil's men collects Ullung curios for the king
1157, 1197 CE: Collects trubutes from Ullung Is.

By the way, the bombing & shooting raid of Tokdo fishermen numbered 14 dead and 10 wounded, not near 100 on July 8, 1948 as HKH says.

I'll stop here. Keep up the good work, Kotaji. =)

(signed)
Lexico from JForum

 
At April 28, 2005 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omissions & errata for preceding post:

quote:
"1. ... better use 'possible, even probable, yet confirmed by nothing else than circumstantial assumptions.'"

Should read;

"That Tokdo was considered 'Korean' territory in the Silla period since 512 CE is possible and highly probably from historical accounts & archeological studies, yet it leaves much elaborate study as to the exact details of Usan gook's control over historical *Tokdo, and Shilla's over Usan gook and historical *Tokdo."

quote:
"2. ...Are you denying the possibility of a colonized Usan 'gook' under Silla control ?"

After quoted passage should be inserted;

"Your statement, 'Even that (Usan 'gook' ie historical *Ullung-do) wasn't considered part of the Silla kingdom but as a separate country,' only proves that you have not verified your historical reverie with the primary souces, which says, in the original and in a literal translation,

三國史記券第四新羅本紀第四智證麻立干
History of the Three Kingdoms, book 4, Annals of the Kingdom of Shilla, book 4, King Jijung

(第二葉左貝第七行從第一字到第十七字)
(leaf 2, left page, column 7, characters 1-17)

十三年夏六月于山國歸服歲以土宜爲貢
In the 13th year, summer, in the 6th moon of his reign, the state of Usan 'gook' surrendered itself in submission, (thenceforth) paying yearly tributes of the finest of its indigenous products."

Such a relationship of yearly tribute means the collection of taxes on the local products of the colonial state Usan 'gook' ie historical Ullung do, not the nominal, symbolic & diplomatic 'tributes' between historical Korean kingdoms to certain Chinese courts, or those collected by historical Korean royal courts from historical Japanese kingdoms. Historical Usan 'gook' paid taxes to the court of Shilla which proves that Usan was Shilla territory.

By sound & critical historical reasonging, further reseach into the issue of Tokdo geopolitics has much to offer in the line of understanding Usan 'gook' exploitation of, utilization of, and control over the Tokdo rocks & ecosystem including, but not limited to, fishery, seal hunting, whaling, and use as a haven for seafaring traffic. Studies of like nature should reveal more scientific details as to Tokdo's relationship to Koryo, Choson & the two modern Koreas in their activities involving the Eastern Sea, aka East Joseon Sea, aka Sea of Japan."


quote:
"3. ...from Ullungdo out to sea, Tokdo is the closed piece of land one can find in all directions"

"Closed" should read "closest."

quote:
"4. ...Just following the fish and deals and you'll find yourself in Tokdo waters with out even trying."

Should read, "Just follow the fish, seals, and whales, and you'll find yourself in Tokdo waters without even trying."

quote:
"Even a Japanese ship owned by Otani Takayoshi inadvertently stumbled upon the island from Oki island 160 km away in 1617 all the way from Yonako (present day west of Tottori)."

Should read, "Although much later than the Usan & Shilla activities and control over the islands of historical Ullungdo & historical Tokdo, in 1617 a Japanese ship owned by an Otani Takayoshi inadvertently stumbled upon the island, 160 km away from Oki island, 230 km from Yonago (present day west of Tottori)."

quote:
"5. ...the bombing & shooting raid of Tokdo fishermen numbered 14 dead and 10 wounded, not near 100 on July 8, 1948."

Should be amended, "June 8, 1948."

(signed)
Lexico, Japan Reference member

 

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