Truth, the Common Ground for the Solution of the Dokdo Problem
Truth, the Common Ground for the Solution of the Dokdo Problem
  • Professor Pae-Keun Park
  • 승인 2013.01.01 12:28
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This manuscript is a contracted English version of the author’s article written in Korean and published in Dokdo Research Journal,  Spring. Vol 17 (2012), pp. 4-9. < Editor's Comment >

Changing Aspects of the Dokdo Problem

Before the 1990s, Korea and Japan managed the Dokdo Problem with the so-called “quiet diplomacy." Nowadays, it has become impossible for the authorities in Seoul and Tokyo to cope with it through such kinds of diplomacy. Japanese statesmen who hesitated to argue something about Dokdo have disappeared. New politicians and bureaucrats who have no sensitivity to the burden of history began to take posts. The international political structure engendered by the Cold War, which deterred the Dokdo problem form inflating into serious diplomatic issue, has deconstructed. In addition, both citizens of Korea and Japan reacting sensitively to the Dokdo Problem through the internet or social networking systems are a huge source of pressure to the government. If it becomes obvious that the Dokdo Problem might not be contained by “quiet” methods, then this would be the time to make more aggressive efforts to find a way to solve the problem.

Principles for the Solution of the Dokdo Problem - Peace and Truth

For the two states, there may be various recourse for the resolution of the Dokdo Problem. Whatever those ways may be, two principles should never be forgotten as the most important grounds for settling the problem.
The first principle is that of peaceful settlement. In its Diplomatic Bluebooks, the Japanese government has made it clear that “this issue must be resolved peacefully” and it will “aim tenaciously to resolve this dispute through diplomatic channels.” Both Korea and Japan are members of the United Nations, and the two states must not even consider using force against each other, which is strictly prohibited under the U.N. Charter. At times there are remarks presuming armed conflict between the two states for the matter. The ulterior motive for making such remarks seems suspicious, and this kind of anachronism must be resolutely rejected.
The second principle is that of a solution based upon truth. A solution not based upon truth is against justice and cannot be a true solution. That kind of seeming solution only leaves the embers of disputes in the future. On the other hand, when the truth about a problem becomes manifest, in many cases it is resolved spontaneously. However, the actualities about the Dokdo Problem make such an solution unlikely, and the truth about Dokdo is frequently concealed.

Concealment of the Truth about Dokdo

The truth about Dokdo is often concealed by not saying the whole facts. To tell the truth, telling partial facts, not the whole facts, is a commonly used way of telling a lie.
“10 Issues of Takeshima” (Takeshima is the Japanese name of Dokdo), which is published by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, typically shows this kind of concealment of the truth. For example, this booklet writes “at the end of the 17th century Japan prohibited passage of ships to Utsuryo Island, but not to Takeshima” (p. 6, issue 4). However, as a matter of fact, taking the opportunity of diplomatic affairs caused by the visit of Korean national named Ahn Yongbok, Bakufu (Japanese government of the time) asked Tottori Han (a feudal domain at the time) about the territorial belongings of Ullengdo (Utsuryo Island) and Dokdo (Takeshima). Tottori Han replied that neither of the two islands belonged to its domain.
The booklet does not contain any reference concerning the 1870 “Secret Research about the Details of Relations with Korea” and the 1877 “Dajokan (Prime Minister) Order” either. These are official documents that manifestly show that Japan did not think of Dokdo as its own territory at that time. Further, even though the booklet explains Japanese incorporation of Dokdo set out by the submission of Yozaburo Nakai, a Japanese enterpreneur, (p. 8, issue 6) it does not make any mention about the fact that Nakai himself thought of Dokdo as a Korean territory; Nakai submitted his request of the incorporation of Dokdo to the Japanese government as the result of maneuvers by 3 high rank officials of Japan; in the background of the maneuvers was the necessity to secure military surveillance facility to prepare for the imminent naval battle with Russia. All these facts are concealed in the booklet.
It points out the fact that in August 1951, Dean Rusk, the United States Assistant Secretary of State, sent a letter to the Korean ambassador to the United States, saying “ As regards the island of Dokdo, …this normally uninhabited rock formation was according to our information never treated as part of Korea…"(p. 11, issue 7) However, by the telegram of November 23, 1953 (sent simultaneously both to the United States Embassies in Seoul and in Tokyo) Dulles, the United States Secretary of State, said that the United States was only one signatory among many signatories of the treaty, and the interpretation was only that of the United States, not the official view agreed upon by the United Nations. These are the “unmentioned facts” in the booklet.
To be fair and just, criticism about Japanese attitude of concealment of the truth must be applied also for Korea. For Korea’s not saying the whole truth, Professor Satoshi Ikeuchi points out the following matters: First, many names (“Usan”, “Usan-guk” and “Usan-do”) in historic Korean literature and on maps, cannot be thought of to be the names of Dokdo. Second, almost all of Ahn Yong Bok’s statements about Dokdo lack objective evidence. Third, the Korean argument that the name of “Seokdo” (which appears in the 1900 Imperial Order No. 41 of the Empire of Korea) indicates Dokdo for some linguistic reason lacks direct evidence. 
When Korea says some facts about Dokdo, she must say what has been pointed out by Professor Ikeutci at the same time.
Truths to Be Manifested Further

In March 1906, a Japanese named Yoshitaro Jinzai and his company were sent by Shimane Prefecture to visit Ullengdo. When they met the Governor of Ulleungdo, Shim Heung Taek, they notified him about the Japanese incorporation of Dokdo. This information was urgently reported to the central government of Korea. In that report, he used the expression “Dokdo belongs to this district.” The Minister of Home Affairs is reported to have responded by saying that “saying Dokdo is a territory belonging to Japan is a totally unreasonable thing,” and the Minister of Political Affairs is said to have given an order which demanded to make research over situations in Dokdo, saying that “arguing Dokdo to be Japanese territory is absolutely groundless.”
Taking all these facts into consideration, professor Ikeuch concludes that the remarks and responses by the Governer of Ullengdo and the two Ministers must have had some grounds. Furthermore, according to the behavior of Nakai in the fall of 1904, it is certain that there were some circumstances that made Dokdo recognized as Korean territory. The Korean officers’ assertions that Dokdo was Korean territory also prove that just before the year 1905 circumstances made Dokdo recognized as Korean territory. However, those “circumstances” have not been proven. These circumstances are one of the truths about Dokdo yet to be identified.