Sunday, July 11, 2004

Bland propaganda in the Japan Times about Dokdo / Takeshima

This short article, reproduced entire below, is a beautiful example of the bland propaganda which pops up in the Japanese press almost every day. Read on, and I'll explain what's wrong afterwards:

South Korean ship kicked out of EEZ


KYOTO (Kyodo) A Japanese patrol boat sent a warning Friday to a South Korean research vessel after the ship was spotted in Japan's exclusive economic zone off Takeshima Island in Shimane Prefecture, Coast Guard officials said.

The vessel, which was conducting a marine survey without permission, left Japanese waters after receiving the warning, according to the 8th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters based in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture.

Under an international agreement, a country must receive permission to enter another country's exclusive economic zone to conduct marine research at least six months in advance.

South Korea had not submitted a request to enter the EEZ, the Coast Guard said.

The article entirely fails to meet the most basic standards of journalism. In particular, it doesn't even begin to explore the reasons why a Korean ship might be carrying out a marine survey without permission in Japan's economic exclusion zone. And that's because the answer is ideologically unpalatable: South Korea claims the island (identified in the article only by its Japanese name, Takeshima) and has a lighthouse and a port there. If the article mentioned these uncomfortable facts, it would have to take an implicit or explicit stance towards the validity of South Korea's claim to the island (which Koreans call Tokto or Dokdo) and more importantly, the surrounding waters, rather than effectively pretending that no such issue exists. And it would get worse for Kyodo news agency and the Japan Times, because the claims to the island are linked to the period of history in which Japan occupied and colonised Korea between 1905 and 1945, since Japan claimed the island in 1905 during a time when the Korean government was in no position to object, and it really wouldn't do to drag all of that up again...
Liancourt Rocks/Dokdo Islets/Takeshima
Dokdo/Takeshima - actually two large rocks with a total area of about five football fields

Both countries put their claims to the island much earlier than the colonial era, relying on documents that are supposed to show that the island has been a part of their territory for centuries. The Korean case is made here, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimusho) has a page about it here, the regional government on the nearest part of the Japanese main island, Shimane prefecture, has a page on it here, and there's a report from a fairly neutral US perspective here. The best explanation of the whole issue available on the net, by a Mark S. Lovmo is here. I don't know which government is right, not being an international lawyer, nor do I much care, since the island has always been uninhabited - although since the 1990s there have been Korean coast-guards there, and in the past people from both Korea and Japan visited to carry out traditional activities such as gathering seaweed and abalone and slaughtering sea-lions.

Hunting sea lions near Takeshima

Hunting sea lions near Takeshima (Photograph: San-in Chuo Shimpo Newspaper Co., Ltd.)

The Korean case seems better to me, but regardless of that, I think the Korean claim should probably prevail, mainly because it would be a sign that Japan elites can recognise and reject Japan's imperial period. (Note on possible bias: I have lived in Japan. I have never visited Korea.) What is more important is that this issue should be taken out of the hands of nationalists on both sides, particularly the Japanese far-right, who are vocal and have strong connections in the governing LDP and main opposition DPP.
The only practical route to a solution to this, in my opinion, and to other territorial disputes in East Asia outstanding for the last 50 years, is through something like an East Asian version of the European Union and a consequent gradual weakening of antagonistic nationalisms that are still very strong. Unfortunately, this kind of regional rapprochement seems far off, partly because of periodic provocative moves by the Japanese government. This January, a week after angering people in all East Asian countries by visiting Yasukuni Jinja, a shrine to Japanese soldiers including war criminals, Japanese PM Koizumi said that "Takeshima is Japanese territory so Korea should act prudently". (See Seoul Times report here.) This was in reaction to a Korean government plan to issue a set of stamps with pictures of the island, and understandable in that context, but predictably encouraged nationalists in Japan and strengthened the hand of nationalists in Korea.
This issue is a glimpse of the way that international relations among East Asian countries have been dysfunctional since the end of WWII, and in some ways simply frozen, with bilateral relations between each country and the USA taking priority on security issues. In this period cultural exchanges and mutual understanding and interest have been depressingly low, especially between South Korea and Japan, although elites have established and deepened business links, all the while sheltering behind nationalist and often racist rhetoric.


There's a sadder story about Dokdo/Takeshima, connected to the issue of sovereignty.
On the evening of Tuesday, June 8, 1948, three Korean fishermen were rescued from a damaged fifteen-ton wooden boat in the East Sea/Sea of Japan. The men told of a horrifying ordeal they had endured earlier that day. They claimed that aircraft had bombed and strafed them while they and others in up to 80 other boats were harvesting seaweed at an island located off the East coast of Korea known as Dokdo. Of all the fishermen present at Dokdo that day, the three badly shaken men were among the few survivors.
(from page by Mark S. Lovmo)

The number of people killed was probably between 150 and 320.
US bomber crews based in Japan had used the islands as practice targets for live weaponry from 1947 and continued for another four years after the deaths of the Korean fishermen, finally stopping in 1953.
At this time both Japan and Korea were under military occupation by the US but the islands had been included in the area controlled by the US forces in Japan, not those in Korea. Warnings that were published in Japan were apparently not known even at the highest levels in Korea. Dramatic evidence for this came in 1952, in a near-repeat of the 1948 incident:
the United Nations Naval Commander in Pusan (an American), not knowing that the island was a designated bombing range and had been placed off-limits, granted permission to the Republic of Korea Navy on September 7, 1952 to allow a 300-ton Korean ship, named the Chinnamho, to travel to Dokdo on a scientific expedition. The expedition reported, upon safely returning, that an "unmistakably American" aircraft dropped bombs on the island on September 15th while they were there, forcing the expedition to cut short its activities.
(from http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/temp.html)

After the deaths in 1948 US authorities promised compensation.
...a representative of the Commanding General, USAFIK, issued a statement to Chang Myun, of the Foreign Affairs Committee, assuring him that an investigation was being conducted and that if U.S. forces were responsible, "the United States would do everything possible to compensate and comfort the bereaved."
...
[However] The bombing survivors, Gong Du-Up and Jang Hak-Sang, along with the son of one of the bombing victims, Kim Chan-Soo, recalled in 1995 that they and their families had either received nothing from U.S. officials, or that all of the money that was received had been spent on erecting a memorial monument for the victims.

...four years after the bombing, at the behest of Koreans living on [nearby] Ullung Island, the Korean Government sent a letter of inquiry through its Air Force liaison to the U.S. Fifth Air Force on April 25, 1952 in an effort to ascertain the status of the island in the wake of the bombing incident that had taken place almost four years previously. On May 4, 1952, the government received a reply from Fifth Air Force Headquarters, essentially stating that there had been no prohibition on fishing around Dokdo, and that the island had not been a FEAF [US Far Eastern Air Force] bombing range.
(from http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/temp4.html)
As noted above, the US stopped bombing the island in 1953, partly because of the fuss caused by the near-disaster in 1952.
...by 1953, the U.S. military had officially excluded Dokdo as a practice area for American forces in the region. The decision to stop using Dokdo as a bombing range seemed to be the result of a growing realization among American authorities of the possibility that the continued use of the island as a bombing range would have, in the words of American embassy personnel, "potentially explosive political implications" for the United States. Embassy officials were fearful that the U.S. would be unhappily forced into choosing sides in a territorial dispute between Korea and Japan [still ongoing in 2004, as explained above], in addition to facing possible "adverse publicity and/or legal action in the event that fishermen, who use the Island occasionally, are killed or injured by bombs."(from http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/temp.html)

As the author of this excellent report implies, we learn something about the US view of Koreans at the time:
[US] military intelligence authorities assessed the bombing incident, especially the initial Korean reaction, as an instructive example of the Korean "susceptibility" to propaganda:

"The reactions to the bombing...illustrate Korean ability to unite spontaneously in the face of external developments construed to be detrimental to the welfare and prestige of the Korean people. Any news, accompanied by the flimsiest of substantiation, merely suggesting the possibility of...[an] infringement...upon the rights of the Korean people rapidly welds the heterogeneous and bickering factions in Korea. This susceptibility is and will continue to be fully exploited by the Soviets and their Communist propaganda machine."(from http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/temp4.html)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Links on Dokdo and the 1948 bombing incident. I am an historian and intend to conduct some more research where that author left off.

Anonymous said...

Japaneses should really stop stealing other countries' territory.

During WWII, Japaneses killed so many Koreans, Chineses etc...

Also they stole so many treasures from Korea , China etc...

Not only Japaneses committed invasional war crime, they were also dirty thieves.

And now what Japaneses are trying to do?
They are trying to steal Korean people's territory.


I really didn't know Japaneses were that degrading dirty thieves.

I start to dislike Japan and Japaneses.

I now realize why Japaneses deserved to get killed from atomic bombs.
I agree with Americans' view on Japaneses. Americans said that Japaneses do not deserve human respect, and I fully agree with that.

Anonymous said...

Japaneses should really stop stealing other countries' territory.

During WWII, Japaneses killed so many Koreans, Chineses etc...

Also they stole so many treasures from Korea , China etc...

Not only Japaneses committed invasional war crime, they were also dirty thieves.

And now what Japaneses are trying to do?
They are trying to steal Korean people's territory.


I really didn't know Japaneses were that degrading dirty thieves.

I start to dislike Japan and Japaneses.

I now realize why Japaneses deserved to get killed from atomic bombs.
I agree with Americans' view on Japaneses. Americans said that Japaneses do not deserve human respect, and I fully agree with that.

lovely guy said...

All Japaneses!

Go back to Japan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Of course Dokdo
How stupid you name Dokdo as Liancourt Rocks
Stop despising the power of Korean Netizens
We ain't as weak as you think

nick said...

I think the comments posted (apart from the first) support my point about nationalists, even if so far they are all making the point about how braindead Korean nationalism is. Aren't there any Japanese nationalists who would also like to support my point?