• Dokdo in the East Sea
  • Controversies surrounding Dokdo
  • Dokdo! It can be seen from Ulleungdo
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Historical records such as History of Goryeo, The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records, and New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country have information on Ulleungdo and Dokdo. This signifies the intention of the Goryeo government and the Joseon government to show territorial control of the islands, which is very important. But the records often are contradictory, which leads to confusion.
For this reason, Japanese scholars have denied the “two island” theory based upon the information in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country (Sinjeung Dongguk yeoji seungnam). In the former text is, “It was called the State of Usan during the Silla period.” And in the latter text is, “According to some records, Usan and Ulleung originally were a single island.” To this, Korean scholars have countered, The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records meant the State of Usan during the Silla period, not the island of Usan.” As for the statement in New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country, Korean scholars stated that this is based upon unsubstantiated evidence. For this reason, they argued that the fact of two islands having two different names would not change because of the references in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country. Japanese scholars criticized, “It is not acceptable to pick and choose some parts of historical records and throw away everything else that does not serve their purpose.” To understand this issue properly, they further stated, “One needs to investigate other old records in addition to the two books and compare each and every reference.” In addition, the Japanese side argued that Korean scholars leave room for the theory of “one island with two different names” while taking the firm position of two islands having two different names based on New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country and Revised Reference Documents on the Eastern Country (Jeungbo Munheon bigo), which are contradictory. Even if they follow the two islands and two names theory, the Japanese scholars continued, they give no explanation whatsoever regarding Usan Island. [note 013]
〈FIG 2〉 “Map of the Eight Provinces” (above) and the depictions in that map of Usando and Ulleungdo (below).Usando (Dokdo) is depicted west of Ulleungdo.
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The viewpoint of Japanese scholars is well represented by Kawakami in his book Historical and Geographical Studies on Takeshima. [note 014] This was the first book published in Japan after the issue of Dokdo emerged between Korea and Japan. Based on a vast amount of historical material, Kawakami made seemingly persuasive arguments regarding the status of Dokdo. The arguments by Japanese scholars about territorial claims on Dokdo rely in large measure on this book. That the book was reprinted in 1996, three decades after the first edition in 1966, emphasizes the importance of this book in forming general opinion on the issue among scholars, bureaucrats, and the general public. [note 015] Comparing records in the The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records, New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country, History of Goryeo, and Samguk Saki[三国史記, The History of Three Kingdoms], Kawakami argued that Usan is not Dokdo and that “Usan” was used as another name for Ulleungdo. He further stated that Usan was a state name while Ulleung or Mureung was an island name. He relied upon History of Goryeo Geographical Records (Goryeosa jiriji) for the argument that Ulleungdo and Dokdo is a single island. According to Kawakami, the records in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country that describe Ulleungdo and Usando as two separate islands were transpositions of the descriptions in History of Goryeo Geographical Records. The remarks were originally in a note in History of Goryeo, but in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country this information was placed in the main body of the text. But such an argument regarding Ulleungdo and Dokdo based upon these three records is not congruent with historical facts. [note 016] Other Japanese scholars, such as Nakamura Hidetaka, Tamura Seizaburo, Ueda Toshio, and Taijudo Kanae, cited similar records and stated that these were two different names for a single island due to a lack of geographic knowledge. In addition, still other writers, such as Shimojo Masao, stated, “The comment that the two islands are not far apart from each other must be interpreted as the two islands are not far apart from the mainland.” Using Gyeongsang-do Gazetteer (Gyeongsangdo chiriji) and Revised Gyeongsang-do Geography as his principal texts, Shimojo wrote further that “distance not far apart” must be understood to mean the islands are not far from the mainland. [note 017] Shimojo also argued that the mention of “distance not far apart” referred to distance on land, as based on a sentence in Gyeongsang-do Gazetteer that “land distance is no farther than 10 ri and people move back and forth to cultivate.” He wrote erroneously that the The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records dropped the phrase “land distance” from the sentence.
To this Kim Byeong-ryeol countered that the usual practice in writing geographical texts at the time was to indicate the distance of an island from the mainland when the distance is not long. If the distance is long, however, a daughter island is indicated in relation to the mother island. For example, Modo located near Jindo was described as south of Jindo. And Cheongrodo, being close to Chujado, was written as south of Chujado. [note 018] As Kim Byeong-ryeol pointed out, however, the way the distance between an island and the mainland was described in the The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records is not exactly what Shimojo argued. In several descriptions of Namyang in the section for Suwon County, in Gyeonggi-do, in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records, for example, the distance is not in terms of how far an island is from the mainland. For instance, Seon-gammido is identified as “10 ri west of Hwaji Ferry Port,” Daebudo as “two li west of Hwajido,” Sowoodo as “five ri west of Daebudo,” Yeongheungdo as “seven ri west of Sowoodo,” Soholdo as “30 ri west of Yeongheungdo,” Deokjeokdo as “60 ri south of Soholdo,” and Ueumdo as “three li north of Bueui.” In other words, the way distance is indicated in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records is not always in terms of how far an island is from the mainland.
In addition, the description of Uljin County in History of Goryeo that influenced how distance is defined in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records was not in terms of the relationship between Uljin County and the two islands, but the relationship between Usan and Mureung. And History of Goryeo did not include the distance between the islands and the mainland. At the end of the description on Ulleungdo, mention is made of the distance between the two islands while explaining that Usan and Mureung are separate islands.
For this reason, the phrase “二島相去不遠” must be interpreted as meaning “two islands not far apart from each other.” The sentence, “As the two islands are not far apart, one can be visible from the other on a clear day,” states clearly the intimate relationship between Ulleungdo and Usando, and can be used as evidence that Usando is indeed Dokdo. Although Japanese scholars have tried to distort the historical facts, they must be aware that this is incontrovertible evidence. [note 019] Still, Kawakami raised another issue of visibility distance that may be used as evidence for Dokdo’s territorial claims, in addition to his theory of one island with two different names. In contrast to the arguments of Korean scholars that the phrase “two islands not far apart from each other” in the The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and in History of Goryeo Geographical Records are evidence enough for the visibility of Dokdo from Ulleungdo, Japanese counterparts stated that this is evidence of Ulleungdo being visible from the mainland [1]. Using the formula D = 2.09 (H + h)[note 020], Kawakami argued that Dokdo is not visible unless one climbs above 200 meters in Ulleungdo. Even if one climbs high in Ulleungdo, he stated further, Dokdo is not visible because of tree cover.[note 021]
Still, Kawakami acknowledged that one can often see the highest peak of Dokdo from points 130 meters in height in Ulleungdo, and that Dokdo is visible at 200 meters in height. In addition, the actual height of West Islet, of Dokdo, is 168.5 meters whereas Kawakami suggested that it was 157 meters. That means one can view the highest point of Dokdo at points about 120 meters high in Ulleungdo. At points 284 meters high in Ulleungdo, one can see parts of Dokdo with a height of 50 meters in three-dimensional shapes. Viewed at points 200 meters high in Ulleungdo, one can see parts of Dokdo that are 96 meters high, with the peak of West Islet in a triangular shape.[note 022] Despite these incontestable facts, Kawakami went to great lengths seeking to prove that Dokdo is not visible from Ulleungdo, stating, “In the past, Ulleungdo was covered with trees and it would be almost impossible for anyone to climb up that high. Even if it was possible, I highly doubt whether one can view Dokdo from there given the tree cover.” It is clear, however, that this argument was based on guesswork. A better guess is, “Walking up to a height of about 120 meters would have been reasonably possible even if Ulleungdo was so densely forested back then.”[note 023] The attempt by Kawakami to deny the veracity of the The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records by comparing it with other geographic texts in the early Joseon period resembled that of Shimojo. But Shimojo stated that the Korean government made territorial claims based on a reference in New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country that Dokdo is “clearly visible” from Ulleungdo. In actuality, however, the Korean government cited phrases in the The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and mentioned the names of Usando and Ulleungdo in the case of New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country. In addition, Shimojo made a mistake in attributing the grounds for the Korean government’s territorial claims to the following historical event. In the late seventeenth century when the so-called An Yong-bok incident occurred, the Joseon government minister Nam Gu-man said, “[Ulleungdo is] clearly visible [from the mainland],” citing a phrase from New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country. Shimojo believes the Korean government bases its claims on this fact when accounting for the relationship between Ulleungdo and Dokdo.
Even though the records in New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country and The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records seem similar, they are quite different given the context.
It is either called Mureung or Ureung. The two islands lie on the sea straight east of the county. There are three peaks high in the sky, and the one in the south is slightly lower than the others. On clear days, the trees on the top of the peaks and the sand banks at the foot of the mountain top are clearly visible. With a favorable wind, one can reach there in two days. According to some records, Usan and Ulleung was originally a single island, with the size of the island measuring 100 ri in both length and width. [note 025]
 
The description of Usando and Ulleungdo focuses primarily on Ulleungdo. This is in contrast with the description in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records which emphasized the relationship between the two islands. It seems, however, that the depiction is similar to that in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records because of common phrases. On closer inspection, however, one can see that this is more a description of the view of Ulleungdo seen from the mainland than of Usando seen from Ulleungdo. It is obvious from the phrase “the trees on top of the peak and the sand banks below are visible clearly” that the text is discussing Ulleungdo, not treeless Dokdo.
Next, the phrase “it takes two days on a favorable wind” may be interpreted as indicating the distance between Uljin and Ulleungdo, similar to the phrase in Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk yusa), “two days in a westerly wind” (便風二日程), not the distance between Ulleungdo and Dokdo. In addition, it usually takes only one day from Ulleungdo to Dokdo, which is not congruent with the phrase. For this reason, it is difficult to assume that this is a phrase indicating the distance between Ulleungdo and Dokdo. As it is not clear whether the phrase “two days’ distance in a westerly wind” (風便則 二日可到) refers to the distance between Ulleungdo and the mainland or to the distance between Ulleungdo and Dokdo, in comparison with “two islands not far apart from each other” in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and “originally two islands not far apart” in History of Goryeo Geographical Records, it is proper to interpret this as meaning the distance between Ulleungdo and the mainland by following the spirit of Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms. The records on Ulleungdo and Dokdo in New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country seem to be moreso about Ulleungdo rather than the relationship between Ulleungdo and Dokdo. [note 025] The phrase “clearly visible” in a Korean historical record indicates that at one point it is possible to see one of the islands, including the three peaks, on clear days. It seems more natural to assume that here “one point” is not an island but a place on the continent, that is, the Korean Peninsula. That is because the comment “One can reach there in two days in a favorable wind” makes us believe that it refers to a point on the peninsula. “One of the islands” seems to refer to an island near the coast. Given that an entry in The Annals of King Sejong stated, “It was called the State of Usan during the Silla period or Ulleungdo, whose radius is 100 ri (新羅時稱于山國一云鬱陵島地方百里), this likely refers to Ulleungdo rather than to Usando because the former island is closer to the peninsula. The only island in the East Sea with a radius of 100 ri and three peaks is Ulleungdo. Thus when New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country said “clearly visible,” it meant trees and geographical features of Ulleungdo that are clearly visible from the peninsula, not those of Usando seen from Ulleungdo. The phrase “One can reach there in two days at favorable wind” (風便則二日可到) can also be interpreted as meaning the distance from Ulleungdo. That is, it takes two days to Ulleungdo from the coast in a favorable wind.[note 026] As may be seen above, the description of Usando and Ulleungdo in New and Expanded Complete Conspectus of the Territory of the Eastern Country primarily discusses Ulleungdo. This is in contrast with the description in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records in which is emphasized the relationship between the two islands. Similar descriptions (Usando, Ulleungdo, the two islands lie on the sea straight east of the county, on clear days, and are clearly visible) lead us to believe that these are elaborations of what The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records described. On closer inspection, however, one can see that these are descriptions of Ulleungdo as seen from the peninsula, not those of Usando as seen from Ulleungdo.

 
[note 013]
Yu Mi-rim (2008), “Argument in Favor of the Theory That Usando Is Dokdo,” Korean Journal of Political and Diplomatic History, 29(2), pp. 75-76.
[note 014]
Kawakami Kenzo (1966), Historical and Geographical Studies on Takeshima, Tokyo: Kokon Shuppansha.
[note 015]
Park Bae-geun, (2001), “Critical Review of Historical and Geographical Studies on Takeshima,” Legal Studies, 42(1), pp. 122-123.
[note 016]
Park, Bae-geun (2001), op. cit., pp. 131-132.
[note 017]
Kim Byeong-ryeol (2002), “Arguments by Japanese Scholars on Dokdo Territorial Claims,” Journal of Dokdo Studies, p. 209.
[note 018]
Kim Byeong-ryeol (1996), Dokdo or Takeshima? Dada Media, pp. 339-340.
[note 019]
Baek In-gi and Sim Mun-bo (2006), op. cit., pp. 44-47.
[note 020]
D: visible distance; H: elevation above sea level; h: eye level
[note 021]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., pp. 281-282.
[note 022]
Park Bae-geun, op. cit., p. 133.
[note 023]
Park Bae-geun, op. cit., pp. 133-134
[note 025]
『新增東國輿地勝覽』 卷 45, 蔚珍縣條: “于山島•鬱陵島:一云武陵 一云羽陵 二島在縣 正東海中 三峰岌嶪撑空 南峰稍卑 風日淸明 則峰頭樹木及山根沙渚 歷歷可見 風便則二 日可到 一說于山•鬱陵本一島 地方百里.”
[note 025]
Baek In-gi and Sim Mun-bo (2006), op. cit., pp. 48-52.
[note 026]
Yu Mi-rim (2008), op. cit., pp. 78-79.
[note 013]
Yu Mi-rim (2008), “Argument in Favor of the Theory That Usando Is Dokdo,” Korean Journal of Political and Diplomatic History, 29(2), pp. 75-76.
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[note 014]
Kawakami Kenzo (1966), Historical and Geographical Studies on Takeshima, Tokyo: Kokon Shuppansha.
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[note 015]
Park Bae-geun, (2001), “Critical Review of Historical and Geographical Studies on Takeshima,” Legal Studies, 42(1), pp. 122-123.
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[note 016]
Park, Bae-geun (2001), op. cit., pp. 131-132.
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[note 017]
Kim Byeong-ryeol (2002), “Arguments by Japanese Scholars on Dokdo Territorial Claims,” Journal of Dokdo Studies, p. 209.
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[note 018]
Kim Byeong-ryeol (1996), Dokdo or Takeshima? Dada Media, pp. 339-340.
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[note 019]
Baek In-gi and Sim Mun-bo (2006), op. cit., pp. 44-47.
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[note 020]
D: visible distance; H: elevation above sea level; h: eye level
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[note 021]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., pp. 281-282.
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[note 022]
Park Bae-geun, op. cit., p. 133.
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[note 023]
Park Bae-geun, op. cit., pp. 133-134
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[note 025]
『新增東國輿地勝覽』 卷 45, 蔚珍縣條: “于山島•鬱陵島:一云武陵 一云羽陵 二島在縣 正東海中 三峰岌嶪撑空 南峰稍卑 風日淸明 則峰頭樹木及山根沙渚 歷歷可見 風便則二 日可到 一說于山•鬱陵本一島 地方百里.”
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[note 025]
Baek In-gi and Sim Mun-bo (2006), op. cit., pp. 48-52.
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[note 026]
Yu Mi-rim (2008), op. cit., pp. 78-79.
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