• Dokdo in the East Sea
  • Controversies surrounding Dokdo
  • Dokdo! It can be seen from Ulleungdo
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Dokdo’s visibility from Ulleungdo is a historical fact. Barring any significant change in the natural environment in Ulleungdo and Dokdo, Dokdo will always be visible from Ulleungdo. As evidence that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo, numerous sources can be cited, including The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records (1454), Historical Records of Ulleungdo, and eyewitness accounts of Ulleungdo residents such as Hong Jae-hyeon and Hong Sun-chil.[note 042] and photographs taken by the Northeast Asian History Foundation.[note 043] Videos and even mathematical formulas have been put forward to prove the veracity of the claims.
Still, Japanese scholars continue to insist that Dokdo is not visible from Ulleungdo. Why is that? It may be because they have not had experience in trying to see Dokdo from Ulleungdo? Or, they simply did not want to acknowledge this simple fact? Then what is the big difference whether or not Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo?
Kawakami, who was a treaty expert for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published a book in 1966 entitled Historical and Geographical Studies on Takeshima. He argued that Dokdo cannot be visible from Ulleungdo.[note 044] His methodology was painstakingly meticulous and took into account the geographical conditions of Ulleungdo. Three years after the publication of Kawakami’s book, Lee Han-gi offered persuasive criticisms of Kawakami’s argument in Korea’s Territories (1969). Kawakami set his formulas with eye level at four meters by assuming that a person observing Dokdo would be standing on the deck of a boat. Lee criticized this by proposing that one can establish a formula by which Dokdo is visible with an assumption of the observation height of 120 meters on a peak.[note 045] Subsequent research which showed mathematically that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo includes A Study on Living Space and Social Organization of the Residents of Dokdo and Ulleungdo by Park Seong-yong, a cultural anthropology professor at Yeongnam University, which was published in 2008, and Jeong Tae-man’s journal article “A Mathematical Approach to the Dokdo Problem” in Dokdo Studies (December 2008). In particular, Park[note 046] and Jeong Tae-man (2008), ibid.[note 047] According to this, at a height of 88 meters one can begin to see part of Dokdo and at more than 170 meters about one-half of Dokdo will be visible, albeit differing slightly depending upon the person.
The Northeast Asian History Foundation confirmed that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo during its 18-month survey from July 2008 to December 2009. The survey results were later reported in Joongang Ilbo.[note 048] and were on display at the National Assembly in March 2009 and in a subsequent traveling exhibition. According to surveys by the Northeast Asian History Foundation, the lowest point in Ulleungdo from which Dokdo was observed was 133 meters (the house of Jeong Bong-gweon and Gwon Kyeong-sun in Sadong-ri, Ulleungdo). According to an eyewitness account by Lee Ye-gyun (born in 1948) whom the foundation surveyors interviewed during the investigation on July 30, 2010, he even saw Dokdo several times from the Dodong-ri beach in the 1980s. Although this is a location from which it is theoretically impossible to see Dokdo, we believe he indeed saw the islet through light refraction or other natural phenomena.
Meanwhile, Kawakami did not deny outright that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo mathematically. He stated that one must climb as high as 130 meters on Ulleungdo to see the top of Dokdo and go up to 200 meters to recognize the islet fully.[note 049] He added, however, “Given that Ulleungdo was covered with thick vegetation in the past, it would have been exceedingly difficult to go up that high. Even if one could, it is doubtful whether visibility was open all the way to Dokdo.”[note 050] To this, Lee Han-gi responded, “Regardless of how dense the forest was, it would have been abundantly possible to climb up 120 meters. In addition, I do not think visibility would be blocked by obstacles at such a height.”[note 051] Kawakami’s argument above was criticized even in Japan. For example, Kajimura Hideki commented by citing Lee’s argument. “One can see easily that there are numerous spots in Ulleungdo from which to see Dokdo if one opens a map.”[note 052] In addition, he harshly criticized Kawakami’s contention that dense vegetation must have blocked visibility as follows.[note 053]
The idea that the Ulleungdo residents were unaware of the presence of Dokdo for centuries is based on the sinister prejudice that Koreans are an ignorant bunch.
 
According to surveys by the Northeast Asian History Foundation, one can see Dokdo in the entire area stretching from Sadong-ri (Ulleung-eup) to Seokpo Village (Cheonbu-ri, Buk-myeon). That is about one-third of the entire area of Ulleungdo. To this, Kajimura commented as follows.[note 054]
Until the Joseon court’s policy to vacate the island in 1438, many Koreans resided in Ulleungdo. It is surmised that the residents engaged in agriculture as well as fishing. As Ulleungdo has plentiful flat lands from 200 meters to 300 meters, with steep cliffs on the coast, there are still numerous residents living in these areas making a living from farming on lands cleared of forests. It is likely that there were many slash-and-burn fields. The argument that the thick vegetation would have blocked visibility toward Dokdo is thus highly inconceivable.
 
〈FIG 1〉 Manghyang Peak as seen from a beach in Sadong-ri, Ulleungdo
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According to actual observation, Dokdo was visible from someone’s front garden, on the trail to a farm, from the farm, and on a peak.[note 055] Even before the sixth century, during the time of the State of Usan, Ulleungdo was an inhabited island.[note 056] Up until the early Joseon period, Ulleungdo was an inhabited island. Even after that the island was inhabited, albeit to a lesser degree. Ulleungdo was not an island densely forested from the coast to the mountaintop at any time of its history. It would be abundantly possible for anyone to see Dokdo from any spot on the island where the sea in that direction was visible. Actually the coastal side of Manghyang Peak, where the Dokdo Observatory is located, is not so heavily forested as to block the view of the sea (see FIG 1). It must have been no different in the past.
Why then did Kawakami go to great lengths to insist that it is difficult to see Dokdo from Ulleungdo? Below is a passage from his book.[note 057]
There is little evidence that Koreans were aware of the islet of Dokdo in the past, except for the case of An Yong-bok. The period when Koreans learned of the island clearly was when they settled in Ulleungdo and began sailing to the waters near Dokdo after being employed by Japanese boat owners. The time when that perception was clearly established was in 1904 and 1905, after Koreans began going out to the sea near Ulleungdo for fishing purposes under the guidance of Japanese boat owners.
 
Even though Kawakami somehow recognized An Yong-bok, he ruled him out by stating that An was an unreliable person as he had made a false statement. This is as if Kawakami tried to argue that there was no awareness of Dokdo on the part of Koreans at any time of its history.
The point here is that Kawakami wanted to state that Koreans had been unaware of the island until 1905, at which time the Japanese annexed it as their own territory. He also wrote that the phrase “not far apart and one island is visible from the other on clear days” (二島相去不遠 風日淸明 則可望見) recorded in The Annals of King Sejong Geographical Records and in History of Goryeo Geographical Records referred to Ulleungdo seen from the mainland, not Dokdo seen from Ulleungdo.[note 058] What Kawakami intended to say ultimately was that Dokdo is not visible from Ulleungdo and he wanted to prove it by denying historical references[note 059]and claiming that Koreans had not been aware of Dokdo until its annexation in 1905. In other words, this is an argument in support of the claim that Dokdo is not a dependent island to Ulleungdo and it is not an inherent territory of Korea by rejecting its historical and geographical links to Ulleungdo and Korea. The reason Kawakami endeavored to argue that Dokdo is not visible from Ulleungdo lies precisely in this.
Then what implications does the fact that Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo have in terms of international law? A number of methods of acquiring territory have been recognized by international law as lawful methods by which a state may acquire sovereignty over a territory. These are accretion, cession, conquest, and effective occupation. The grounds for territorial acquisition in relation to the fact that a land is “visible” from the other can be found in “discovery” and “geographical contiguity.”
In this section, the discussion will focus upon what type of relationship the fact that “Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo” has with “discovery” and “geographical contiguity” in international law, and what implications the visibility of Dokdo has in terms of international law.

 
[note 042]
Statements by Hong Jae-hyeon, who resettled in Ulleungdo (Political Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1955), Overview on the Dokdo Issue, p. 36); Choi Gyu-jang (1965), “The Secret History of Dokdo Defense Forces,” in Dokdo, Daehan Gongnonsa, p. 314; Hong Sun-chil (1996), This Is Our Land, Hyean, pp. 118-124;
[note 043]
Northeast Asian History Foundation (2009), Photobook on Dokdo Seen from Ulleungdo; Hansan (1996), Did You Have a Good Night’s Sleep, Dokdo? Jangbaek, p. 20; and “Dokdo References in Old Records Were True,” Joongang Ilbo, July 7, 2008).
[note 044]
川上健三 (1966; reprinted in 1996), 竹島の歷史地理學的硏究, 東京: 古今書院, pp. 274-283.
[note 045]
Lee Han-gi (1969), Korean Territory, Seoul National University Press, pp. 230-234.
[note 046]
argued that one can see Dokdo from Ulleungdo at a height of 87.8 meters. (Park Seong-yong, A Study on Living Space and Social Organization of the Residents of Dokdo and Ulleungdo, Gyeongin Munhwasa, pp. 24-26.)
[note 047]
Jeong also stated that at a height of 86 meters one can begin to see part of Dokdo, and that at over 496 meters all of Dokdo is visible. (Jeong Tae-man (2008), ibid., pp. 167-199.)
[note 048]
(“Dokdo Clearly Visible from the Roof of an Ulleungdo House,” March 25, 2009).
[note 049]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., p. 281.
[note 050]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., p. 282.
[note 051]
Lee Han-gi (1969), op. cit., p. 234.
[note 052]
Kajimura Hideki (1978), “Takeshima: The Dokdo Problem and the State of Japan,” Chosen kenkyu, No. 182, pp. 11-13.
[note 053]
Kajimura (1978), ibid., p. 13.
[note 054]
Kajimura (1978), ibid., p. 12.
[note 055]
Northeast Asian History Foundation (2009), Photobook of Dokdo Seen from Ulleungdo.
[note 056]
For related information, see Kim Yun-gon (1998), “The Relationship of the State of Usan with the Silla and Goryeo Governments,” in Comprehensive Studies on Ulleungdo and Dokdo, Yeungnam University Institute of National Culture, pp. 23-53; Choi Mong-ryong, et. al (1998), Ulleungdo: Archeological Investigations, Seoul National University Museum/Ulleung Cultural Center; National Museum of Korea (2008), Ulleungdo; Oh Gang-won (2009), Village Landscape, Transportation Links, and the Life of Ordinary People from the Three Kingdoms Period to Unified Silla as Seen through an Archeological Lens; Northeast Asian History Foundation (2009), Interdisciplinary Studies on the Dokdo Issue, pp. 183-241; Oh Gang-won (2010), Issues in Ancient Ulleungdo Society and Communities; Northeast Asian History Foundation (2010), Studies on Dokdo and Ulleungdo: Historical, Archeological, and Geographical Approaches, pp. 169-222; Roh Hyeok-jin, et. al (2010), Ancient Ruins and Artifacts in Ulleungdo, Northeast Asian History Foundation.
[note 057]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., p. 275.
[note 058]
Kawakami (1966), ibid., p. 282.
[note 059]
See Kawakami (1966), ibid., pp. 282-283.
[note 042]
Statements by Hong Jae-hyeon, who resettled in Ulleungdo (Political Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1955), Overview on the Dokdo Issue, p. 36); Choi Gyu-jang (1965), “The Secret History of Dokdo Defense Forces,” in Dokdo, Daehan Gongnonsa, p. 314; Hong Sun-chil (1996), This Is Our Land, Hyean, pp. 118-124;
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[note 043]
Northeast Asian History Foundation (2009), Photobook on Dokdo Seen from Ulleungdo; Hansan (1996), Did You Have a Good Night’s Sleep, Dokdo? Jangbaek, p. 20; and “Dokdo References in Old Records Were True,” Joongang Ilbo, July 7, 2008).
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[note 044]
川上健三 (1966; reprinted in 1996), 竹島の歷史地理學的硏究, 東京: 古今書院, pp. 274-283.
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[note 045]
Lee Han-gi (1969), Korean Territory, Seoul National University Press, pp. 230-234.
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[note 046]
argued that one can see Dokdo from Ulleungdo at a height of 87.8 meters. (Park Seong-yong, A Study on Living Space and Social Organization of the Residents of Dokdo and Ulleungdo, Gyeongin Munhwasa, pp. 24-26.)
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[note 047]
Jeong also stated that at a height of 86 meters one can begin to see part of Dokdo, and that at over 496 meters all of Dokdo is visible. (Jeong Tae-man (2008), ibid., pp. 167-199.)
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[note 048]
(“Dokdo Clearly Visible from the Roof of an Ulleungdo House,” March 25, 2009).
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[note 049]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., p. 281.
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[note 050]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., p. 282.
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[note 051]
Lee Han-gi (1969), op. cit., p. 234.
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[note 052]
Kajimura Hideki (1978), “Takeshima: The Dokdo Problem and the State of Japan,” Chosen kenkyu, No. 182, pp. 11-13.
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[note 053]
Kajimura (1978), ibid., p. 13.
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[note 054]
Kajimura (1978), ibid., p. 12.
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[note 055]
Northeast Asian History Foundation (2009), Photobook of Dokdo Seen from Ulleungdo.
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[note 056]
For related information, see Kim Yun-gon (1998), “The Relationship of the State of Usan with the Silla and Goryeo Governments,” in Comprehensive Studies on Ulleungdo and Dokdo, Yeungnam University Institute of National Culture, pp. 23-53; Choi Mong-ryong, et. al (1998), Ulleungdo: Archeological Investigations, Seoul National University Museum/Ulleung Cultural Center; National Museum of Korea (2008), Ulleungdo; Oh Gang-won (2009), Village Landscape, Transportation Links, and the Life of Ordinary People from the Three Kingdoms Period to Unified Silla as Seen through an Archeological Lens; Northeast Asian History Foundation (2009), Interdisciplinary Studies on the Dokdo Issue, pp. 183-241; Oh Gang-won (2010), Issues in Ancient Ulleungdo Society and Communities; Northeast Asian History Foundation (2010), Studies on Dokdo and Ulleungdo: Historical, Archeological, and Geographical Approaches, pp. 169-222; Roh Hyeok-jin, et. al (2010), Ancient Ruins and Artifacts in Ulleungdo, Northeast Asian History Foundation.
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[note 057]
Kawakami (1966), op. cit., p. 275.
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[note 058]
Kawakami (1966), ibid., p. 282.
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[note 059]
See Kawakami (1966), ibid., pp. 282-283.
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