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  • Controversies surrounding Dokdo
  • Ten Truths about Dokdo Not Known in Japan

Ten Truths about Dokdo Not Known in Japan

Japan claims Japan reaffirmed its intention to claim sovereignty over Dokdo by incorporating the island into Shimane Prefecture in 1905

After receiving a request from Nakai Yozaburo, a resident of Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture, to incorporate Dokdo into Japanese territory, the Japanese government reaffirmed, through a Cabinet decision made in January of 1905, its intention to claim sovereignty over the island. Consequently, in February of that year, the governor of Shimane Prefecture issued an official notification that Dokdo was to be put under the jurisdiction of the Okinoshima office of Shimane Prefecture.

Japan’s claims is not true because...
Japan illegally occupied Dokdo during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.

In January, 1905, during the Russo-Japanese War, Japan incorporated Dokdo under the rationale of the acquisition of sovereignty over terra nullius. However, such an excuse was modified as “a reaffirmation of Japan’s intention to claim sovereignty over Dokdo” because Japan realized that its own rationale of “Dokdo has always been Japanese territory” and “occupation of terra nullius” conflicted with each other. Its claim, “occupation of terra nullius,” contradicted Japan’s previous argument that Dokdo had no relationship with Japan, which is also shown in the State Council (Dajokan) Directive of 1877.
The Russo-Japanese War began in 1904 when the Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack against the Russian Pacific Fleet at Port Arthur and at Jemulpo. The Japanese Navy built watch towers at Jejudo, Geomundo, and Ulsan in order to monitor the movement of the Russian fleet. In August of 1904, two watch towers were installed in Ulleungdo, too, actions which stressed the strategic value of Dokdo.
Nakai Yozaburo was aware that Dokdo belonged to Joseon. He intended to submit a request for the lease of the island to the Joseon government through the Japanese government. However, Nakai submitted a petition to incorporate Dokdo, instead of a lease request, to the Japanese government in September of 1904, having been influenced by officials of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese Navy Department.
The Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs attempted to reject his petition based upon the opinion that “the gains would be extremely small while the situation would become grave if the acquisition of a barren islet (Dokdo) suspected of being Korean territory...would amplify the suspicions of various foreign countries that Japan had an ambition to annex Korea.” However, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs proceeded to incorporate the island with the rationale that hostile warships would be better monitored if watch towers were constructed, and wireless or submarine cables were installed there.
Japan’s incorporation of Dokdo in 1905 is void by international law. Japan argues that it incorporated the island based on the rationale of “occupation of terra nullius.” However, Korea had established its sovereignty over Dokdo in ancient times, and reaffirmed this under the modern law by issuing Imperial Ordinance No. 41 (see Material 9) on October 25, 1900.
Japan discussed and notified its incorporation of Dokdo to Western countries, including the United States. However, Korea did not receive any query or notification regarding the unilateral incorporation. In March of 1906 the Governor of Uldo (Ulleungdo) learned of the incorporation from Japanese officials of Shimane Prefecture visiting Ulleungdo. The next day, the Governor of Uldo reported this to the central government in Seoul and to the governor of Gangwon-do. On receiving this report, the Minister of Interior and the State Council Minister stated that it is groundless for Japan to claim sovereignty over Dokdo, and ordered an investigation of the facts relating to what Japan had done. (See Material 10.) The Korean government, having been deprived of its diplomatic rights following the protectorate treaty in November 1905, was not able to take any diplomatic action against such a situation. However, Korean newspapers, including the Daehan Daily Newspaper (Daehan maeil sinbo) (May 1, 1906) (see Material 11) and The Hwangseong Newspaper (Hwangseong sinmun) (May 9, 1906), published articles protesting against the Japanese act.
MATERIAL 9. The Korean Imperial Ordinance No. 41 and the Gazette
The Korean Imperial Ordinance No. 41“Article 2. The seat of the County Office shall be in Taeha-dong, and as for jurisdiction, the County shall govern the whole of Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Seokdo.”
The Gazette Containing Imperial Ordinance No. 41Korea renamed Ulleungdo as Uldo, and raised the highest administrative position in Ulleungdo to County Magistrate of Uldo. The County Magistrate gained authority over the whole of Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Seokdo. Korean Imperial Ordinance No. 41 was issued in Korean Gazette No. 1716 on October 27, 1900.
MATERIAL 10. The Report of Lee Myeong-nae, Chuncheon County Magistrate and acting Governor of Gangwon-do (April 29, 1906), and Order No. 3 of Park Je-sun, the State Council Minister (May 20, 1906)
In 1906, the Chuncheon County Magistrate and acting Governor of Gangwon-do Lee Myeong-nae informed State Council Minister Park Je-sun of Japan’s incorporation of Dokdo, which belonged to Korea, immediately after this Japanese act was reported by the Uldo (Ulleungdo) Governor Sim Heung-taek. In response to this, Park stated that Japan’s claims to Dokdo were unfounded and through Order No. 3 commanded that a close eye be kept on the situation on Dokdo and the movements of the Japanese there.
MATERIAL 11. Daehan Daily Newspaper (Daehan maeil sinbo)
“The Uldo governor Sim Heung-taek reported that some Japanese officials had come to Ulleungdo and claimed Dokdo as Japanese territory, surveyed the island, and then counted the number of households. In response to the report from Sim Hueng-taek, the Korean government stated, ‘Their claiming Dokdo as Japanese territory does not make sense at all. We find the Japanese claim shocking.’”

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