Territorial Issue in the Context of Colonial History and International Politics: The Dokdo Issue between Korea and Japan

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This paper explores new patterns, from the perspective of colonial history and international politics, which might have been overlooked in previous studies of Dokdo, a Korean Island, particularly those conducted by foreign scholars. This study emphasizes that Japan's history of aggression is the origin of the Dokdo issue, and Japan's move to incorporate Dokdo in 1905 was actually in the line of Japan's imperialistic aggression. This study found a few interesting patterns which may be observed from events related to Dokdo that arose during the transfer of presidential power in the United States. These findings highlight the need to pay particular attention to the first year, the so-called honeymoon period and the last year, the so-called lame duck period of American administrations, particularly the Democratic Party, with regard to changes in the American position on or policy towards Dokdo. This study suggests that it will be necessary to conduct an analysis of the probability that the government of a country, that is, Japan, for example, when faced with a drop in public approval or domestic unease, might attempt to provoke another country. This paper also introduces the empirical report that measured twenty-two factors in a total of forty-two territorial dispute cases worldwide containing the context of history (for example, "historic animosity") as well as the context of international politics (for example, "US interest"), showing that most of the cases in Northeast Asia are measured as having a "very high" level of historic animosity' and 'US interest.' It is strongly recommended that the aggressors or colonizers in history should recognize the original territorial sovereignty of de-colonized or despoiled nations, and return the invaded territories.

Key words: Territorial Dispute, Dokdo, Northeast Asia, Colonial History, International Politics


In recent years, Japan has been seriously escalating the level of triggering behavior in challenging the sovereignty over Dokdo, as a Korean territory, which is called "Takeshima" in Japan (hereafter referred to as "Dokdo" in this paper). In December 2007, the Geographical Survey Institute of Japan produced a highprecision satellite map (on a scale of 1:25,000) which included the contour lines of Dokdo, using data obtained from the Advanced Land Observing Satellite Daichi and commercial satellites of the United States. In February 2008, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan issued a 14-page pamphlet - Ten Issues Surrounding Takeshima (Dokdo) - in Japanese, Korean, and English and placed it on its website. Furthermore, Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology included Dokdo in the country's territory in its guidelines on the educational curriculum for middle schools in July 2008, and for high schools in December 2009. Additionally, the Japanese government issued repeatedly its annual White Paper on Defense as well as its Blue Paper of the Foreign Ministry, claiming Dokdo as the country's "inherent territory" as in preceding years.

The territorial issue over Dokdo between Korea and Japan dates to the early 1900s, when Japan began putting its plans to invade Korea into practice. Japan forced Korea to sign the Japan-Korea Protocol on February 23, 1904, and the First Korea- Japan Agreement on August 22, 1904. On February 22, 1905, Japan illegally incorporated Dokdo, which was an inherent territory of Korea, through Shimane Prefecture Public Notice No. 40 during its war against Russia. On November 17, 1905, Japan forced Korea to sign the Second Korea- Japan Agreement (also called the Eulsa Treaty or the Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty). On July 24, 1907, the Jungmi Agreement was signed, and on August 22, 1910, Korea was finally annexed by Japan.1

Most territorial issues stem from the ending of the colonial status of a country or from territory occupied during a war. In many cases, they are intertwined with historical controversies. …