Dokdo can be seen from Ulleungdo with the naked eye due to the geographical proximity of the two islands. In The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records (Sejong sillok jiriji, printed in 1454, during the Joseon period) is this statement: “The two islands are not far apart, and each can be seen from the other when the weather is clear.” Because of their geographic proximity, the residents of Ulleungdo naturally assumed Dokdo was an extension of their island.
Nonetheless, there were only a few photographs and eyewitness testimonies proving that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo with the naked eye. No one had yet attempted to confirm the visibility through long-term observation.
After its establishment in 2008, the Northeast Asian History Foundation conducted an 18-month survey to count the number of days in a year that Dokdo was visible from Ulleungdo. Based on that survey we published the book “Dokdo! It Can Be Seen from Ulleungdo.”
For this project, experts in such areas as history, international law, and meteorology joined to discuss the meaning of Dokdo’s visibility from Ulleungdo from the perspective of their respective areas of expertise. Interdisciplinary study based on objective data will make Korea’s territorial claims to Dokdo more airtight.
The Northeast Asian History Foundation is actively engaging in such activities as educational campaigns and academic studies related to Dokdo. By far, our most important activity is conducting studies considered to be sound and convincing. To do so, our research and publications must be both objective and interdisciplinary.
We are pleased to have this book published, and cannot thank enough all of the people involved for their hard work. Finally, we hope this book will encourage more Dokdo-related studies and will inform the world that Dokdo is without doubt an integral part of Korea.
“Is Dokdo visible from Ulleungdo?” It is no longer meaningful to ask such a question. That is because the fact that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo is now an incontestable truth. The survey team members at the Northeast Asian History Foundation (that is, the Dokdo Research Institute in the Northeast Asian History Foundation) spent 18 months from July 2008 to December 2009 observing Dokdo from Ulleungdo and taking photographs of the islet. This is the “Dokdo Visibility Observation” project.
Based upon data gathered from the project, we published the book Dokdo! It Can Be Seen from Ulleungdo. For this project, scholars from the fields of history, international law, and meteorology joined to discuss the meaning of Dokdo’s visibility. The book is divided into an overview, three main chapters, and an appendix.
The overview, written by Northeast Asian History Foundation research fellow Hong Seong-geun, discusses the background and implications of the 18-month project to observe Dokdo.
The second chapter, written by the historian Mun Cheol-yeong, of Dankook University, examines the historical meanings of the fact that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo. That Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo is recorded in such Korean historical records as the The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records, and Historical Records of Ulleungdo (Ulleungdo sajeok, 1694). This has also been proven by the Dokdo Visibility Observation project. Although Dokdo is clearly visible from Ulleungdo, it is not visible from the Oki Islands in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, which is the closest point in Japan from Dokdo. This means that Ulleungdo and Dokdo have historically been perceived as a single living space, one as the main island and the other as an annex.
In Chapter 3 Hong Seong-geun discusses the significance of Dokdo’s visibility from Ulleungdo in terms of international law. Related to its visibility with the naked eye, one can raise an argument based on international law that includes the concepts of discovery and geographical contiguity. But these concepts are not fully recognized as principles of territorial rights. However, Dokdo’s visibility from Ulleungdo carries a special meaning. While Dokdo was an uninhabited island for a long period of time, the fact that Ulleungdo residents could intimately see Dokdo in their daily lives and that the two islands are mentioned as a pair in both Korean and Japanese historical records signifies that Ulleungdo and Dokdo are legally and historically a single island formation.
In Chapter 4, Jeon Yeong-sin and Lee Hyo-jeong, who are with the National Institute of Meteorological Research and the Korea Meteorological Administration, respectively, used a meteorological approach to analyze weather conditions on days when Dokdo was visible from Ulleungdo. According to their analysis, based on daily observation of Dokdo for one year in 2009, the days when Dokdo was visible typically followed rain or snow precipitation. Dokdo was visible in particular from September to November. The authors went one step further. They not only counted the days that Ulleungdo residents could see Dokdo, they also recorded when the view was particularly spectacular. At the beginning of November and February, Ulleungdo, Dokdo, and the sun align in a straight line bringing the stunning view of a golden sunrise behind Dokdo that has been called “Dokdo Glory.”
The appendix compiles the experience of Ulleungdo resident Choi Hwi-chan, who was responsible for the 18-month Dokdo visibility study, as he observed Dokdo. And at the end of this book Mun Cheol-yeong writes about his exploration of Ulleungdo and Dokdo from July 28 to July 31 in the style of a travel journal.
Writing a book based on the simple fact that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo is a difficult task. There were concerns that such writing would bore readers. Fortunately, the authors have diverse backgrounds as university professors, researchers, government officials, and others with expertise in a wide range of topics including history, law, and meteorology. The book made full use of its authors’ perspectives, and includes a collection of beautiful photographs of Dokdo taken from various spots in Ulleungdo. Special attention was paid to ensure that the book will be easily understood by everyone, from ordinary readers to experts.
Please understand that this book represents the views of its individual authors and should not be taken as representative of the official stance of the Northeast Asian History Foundation Dokdo Research Institute or any government agencies (National Weather Service). In addition, while this book may be used for reference purposes, one must be cautious in accepting facts such as “how many times a year Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo” and “under what weather conditions Dokdo can be seen more clearly” as these are not immutable facts. This is because the 18-month period during which the Dokdo visibility study was conducted is far too short a period to standardize such figures.
The help of many individuals went into creating this book’s final manuscript: leading researchers in related fields, those who helped during manuscript preparation, those who provided precious photographs, and all others who helped in so many ways. There is not enough room here to mention them all. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you.
Lastly, we would like to think about what being able to see Dokdo means for Ulleungdo residents in their daily lives. For them, Dokdo must be something more than just a nearby island visible from their island. The continued recognition of Dokdo, coupled with a sense of possession, has turned the island into something more than simply a distant land for Ulleungdo residents. At some point in time, Dokdo has taken a special place in their hearts. It is our wish that readers of this book can share that special feeling.
December 10, 2010
On behalf of all the authors, Hong Seong-geun