News / Asia

South Korean President Visits Islets Disputed with Japan

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, right, talks with police officer Yoon Jang-soo as Lee visits islands called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, Aug. 10, 2012.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, right, talks with police officer Yoon Jang-soo as Lee visits islands called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, Aug. 10, 2012.
Jason Strother
SEOUL — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has visited a set of disputed islets in the sea between Japan and Korea, causing a diplomatic rift between the two nations.
Lee Myung-bak is the first South Korean leader to visit the rocky outcrops, called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.  The islets have been at the center of a dispute between the two nations since the end of Japan’s colonization of the Korean peninsula in 1945.  

​A senior researcher at the Korean government-funded Northeast Asian History Foundation, Lee Myong-chan, says the president’s trip was intended to counter Japanese claims.   
He says, President Lee’s visit expresses Korea's strong determination on Dokdo and also sends a strong message to Japan that Korea will not accept any provocation anymore. He says he thinks Lee did what he had to do as a head of the nation.
The Dokdo-Takeshima Islands

  • Known as Dokdo in Korean and as Takeshima in Japan
  • Claimed by Japan and South Korea
  • Occupied by South Korea since 1954
  • Located between the two countries in fish-rich waters
  • Uninhabited except for a South Korean Coast Guard outpost and an elderly couple
  • Less than 200,000 square meters in size
Both countries say they maintain legal jurisdiction over the rocks, which are surrounded by rich fishing waters and untapped natural resources.  
President Lee’s trip to the disputed territory was met with criticism in Tokyo.  
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba questioned why President Lee had to make the trip now and called it utterly unacceptable.  He says Tokyo has temporarily recalled its ambassador in South Korea in protest.  
In Seoul, Lee’s ruling party applauded his visit to the rocks, calling it a meaningful move to defend South Korea’s territory.
However the main opposition party responded by declaring that the trip was just a publicity stunt and was aimed at deflecting criticism of Lee’s administration.
President Lee’s approval rating is low as he nears the end of his single term in office next March.  And some observers say his visit to the islet Friday is a win-win tactic that might boost his popularity.

“It's a perfect strategic move," said Jasper Kim heads the Asia-Pacific Global Research Group in Seoul.  "For legacy, because he is in effect a lame duck president, he wants to be remembered at least as a patriotic president”  
Kim adds that President Lee might also hope that this trip will help South Koreans forget about a bribery scandal involving his brother.

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Comment Sorting
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 13, 2012 12:18 AM
It is clear which country has justice when histry of the islets is reflected on. The islets were discovered by a Japanese shipping owner, Jinkichi Oyama, in seventeenth century and had been used as a transit point by Japanese transporting firms admitted by Tokugawa shogunate in Edo era. In ninteen ou-five, the ilets were legally included in Shimane prefecture nearlest the islets of body of Japan and governed by Japan with the acknowledgment of international society. After the WWII for several years, these islets were placed out of Japanese power like Okinawa by GHQ. Legal bounderies between Japan and neighbouring countiries after WWII was determined by Treaty of San Furancisco, Treaty of peace with Japan, in ninteen fifity-two. This treaty designated the deniance of the S-Korea's claim of possession rights of the islets. So ex-S-Korea's president, Lhee suddenly lined a military borderline including the Islets with its one-sided interest just three months before the activeness of San Flancisco treaty. So this borderline is not accepted in a view of international law. Our Japanese government sometimes claimed our ownership of the Islets to international cout of justice. But disappoingly Korea never acknouledge even to challenge the trial. If Korea wants to show its properness across the world, she should attend the trial and states its justice and persuade internatonal opinion. In addision, Lhee's line was canceled between two countries as the new basic treaty between Japan and S-Kores was ratified in nineteen shixty-five.

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
August 11, 2012 10:01 AM
why Japan has conflicts with all its neighbours. Hasn't it learned enough lessons from the WWII? Guess it wants to taste the Nuke again since its been more than 50 years it did last time.
In Response

by: Observer from: US
August 13, 2012 1:11 PM
The Japanese, unfortunately, never had to go through a reconstruction of its politics similar to the Germans' after the war. The US and the USSR became embroiled in competition across the strait in Korea instead. The emperor was excused of all responsibility, and the US quickly took the country in as an ally against communist expansion in Asia. What was more important was that Japan stayed anti-Communist (and people like Yoshida Shigeru could prevail, fully tainted with pre-defeat establishment policies). That it still retains the imperial system, that it still retains the battle flag of the imperial forces, and that it still clings to imperial ambitions is a tragedy for Asia. The annexation of an island in 1905 that led to the annexation of a country from which it could invade Manchuria, and in 1937, invade China proper, that it can lay claims to that island again is beyond the pale. It must stop. Japan must be stopped. They've learned nothing. And they are growing aggressive again, all under the nuclear umbrella of the US.
In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 13, 2012 12:31 AM
Hi, Jonathan, may I ask your homeland ? If you are Chinese-someone, could you count the number of conflicts China is now disputing with neighbouring countries?
In Response

by: Samurai from: Japan
August 12, 2012 9:12 AM
Japan is not willingly conflicting with countries concerned. It is fighting for laws (justice) in order to protect or get back its inherent territories which have been deprived while it is suffering its death agony. Jonathan Huang, you Chinese beast! My two relatives were killed by the atomic bomb. Your expression "taste the Nuke again" is a term growled by a Chinese paper beast that was running away from Japanese army during W.W.II.

by: Jason from: USA
August 11, 2012 12:40 AM
The red box on the map points to the wrong island. Liancourt Rocks are located farther East. Please do your research first.
In Response

by: Kobayashi from: Japan
August 16, 2012 9:34 AM
You're right. The map gives me a wrong impression that the island is much closer to S.Korea than it is to Japan.

by: Samurai from: Japan
August 10, 2012 9:13 AM
The lame duck President Lee is gonna break the close friendship relation between Japan and S. Korea, just for clingin to his office. Japan and Korea should tie up with each other to deal with China, N. Korea, and Russia; otherise, no bright future comes to both countries.
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 10, 2012 11:00 AM
Haha voa has learned to select the post as well, what difference do you have from the official media in china?
In Response

by: Tiancheng from: China
August 10, 2012 10:56 AM
Why do Japanese always tend to get China involved in every dispute you have with other countries!!! Japanese always act so sensitive thinking that all of its neigbhours ready to invade her! As a result you always think it wise to grab any territory you can get first and attack any look-like enemy first. Japanese never notice that they always push their potential friends into th position against them

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