Dokdo Island

A group of Korean islands in the East Sea (Sea of Japan)



Dokdo is a Korean island in the East Sea – a little sister island of Ulleungdo. Here is the full story.


I. Other Names and Etymology

II. Geography

III. Demographics

IV. Facilities

V. Climate and Ecology

VI. A Sister Island of Ulleungdo

VII. History of Dokdo

  1. Prehistory
  2. Usan-guk means Mulleung and Usan.
  3. Trouble in paradise
  4. Duality of “Usan” – a single island or a group of two
  5. “Sambongdo” – inhabited Dokdo
  6. Historians conclude on the identity of Usan: Dokdo 
  7. Exemplary Korean Maps
  8. The Japanese Records
  9. Late 19th Century

VIII. Japan’s Territorial Allegations

  1. The meanings of the Japanese claim on Dokdo
  2. During Japan’s imperial expansion
  3. After the Second World War
  4. Japan’s argument
  5. Korean argument
  6. Recent history and prospect

IX. Altering names – prelude to military games?

X. Natural Resources

XI. References

Acknowledgments and Epilogue

Note 1: This article is rather long. Feel free to skim through or jump to sections of interest.
Note 2:
Shorter versions of this article, focusing on Japan’s territorial allegations and historical evidences of Korean control over Dokdo in response, are available in the following languages: English, Arabic (العربية), French (Français), Spanish (Español), German(Deutsch), and Hindi(हिन्दी).  For Korean readers, the author also recommends the following site for a quick summary:  For a Japanese equivalent, see
Thank you!

      Photo above: View of Dokdo from space (source: Korea Aerospace Research institute)
      Picture above: Location of Dokdo

      The local name is Dokdo (독도 in Korean, pronounced “dawk-daw”), which means “rock island.” Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo (울릉도 in Korean, pronounced “ooh-lung-daw”), and is therefore a sister island of Ulleungdo. Dokdo is also known as Liancourt Rocks through 19th century rediscovery by the French, and known as Takeshima (たけしま、竹島)in Japanese. Chinese characters for Dokdo is 獨島, in which “獨” means “lonely” and “島” means “island.” However, the Chinese notation is for indicating the sound only. “獨” makes “dawk” sound in Korean, which means “rock.”
      Dokdo’s historical names include Usando, which may have derived from the original word “Uruma” that means “the mountain (raised land) of the King.” The word “Uru” that means king was shortened to “U” and a Chinese word “san” (山) meaning mountain and another Chinese word “do” (島) was added. In this combination, the Chinese word for “U,” which is represented by “于” provides only the sound, and the “sando” provides the meaning of “mountain island,” thereby forming the name Usando (于山島). There is an alternative view that Usando means “mountain island of Ujinya.” “U” means “upper” and “jinya” means “field” in ancient Korean. Ujinya was the name of an administrative district in the 6th century including present day Ulsan, a port city of Korea.
      Later names include Sambongdo, meaning “three-peak island.” While Dokdo has two main islands, three peaks are visible at a certain angle. Hence the name “Sambongdo.” This name appears in a 1470 Korean record of Annals of King Seongjong (Korean King). According to the record, some people ran away in 1470 to Sambongdo to avoid taxation. In 1472, the governmental officers went out to locate Sambongdo, but failed to locate it and moored at Ulleungdo. A 1496 Korean expedition finally locates Sambongdo, but apparently they were scared by the seals (shapes of a person) and decide not to land. This three-peak profile is apparent if Dokdo is approached from a northeast direction or from a southwest direction. The validity of this name is substantiated by a record of later rediscovery of Dokdo by a U.S. whaling ship William Thompson. The ship log of William Thompson dated March 18, 1949 records that they found 3 rocks about 40 miles southeast of Ulleungdo. To them, Dokdo looked like a set of three rocks, although in reality, there are only two main islands. Later, the name Sambongdo is applied to Ulleungdo.
      The name “Gajido” meaning “seal island” or “sea lion island” was used in the 18th century. A later name of “Seokdo” (石島) has the same meaning as the latest name “Dokdo.” “石” means “rock” and “島” means “island.” It is quite likely that the local fisherman interchangeably used “Seokdo” and “Dokdo” for a while since the Korean word for “石” (rock) is “독” (dawk) or “돌” (dawl), i.e., “石” = “독.” Since the Koran root word for island is “섬” (pronounced “sum”), a pure Korean word for “rock island” is “섬” (pronounced “dawk-sum”), a Korean-Chinese hybrid word for “rock island” is “島” (pronounced “dawk-daw”), a Chinese notation carrying the meaning of the Koren root is “石島” (pronounced “suk-daw’), and a Chinese notation carrying the sound of the Korean-Chinese hybrid word becomes “獨島” (pronounced “dawk-daw”). The first written record including “Dokdo” appears in a 1906 document by Governor Heung-Taek Shim of Ulleungdo and eventually completely replaces “Seokdo” in usage.
      The Japanese name for Dokdo is 竹島 (Takeshima). The character “竹” means “bamboo,” and the character “島” means “island.” Dokdo has no bamboos. Wherein does “竹” come from, then? There was a mix-up of names between the names for Ulleungdo and Dokdo by the Japanese people around 1905 who a notice, called Shimane Notice No. 40, was filed in an effort to incorporate Dokdo as Japanese territory. Prior to 1905, Ulleungdo was referred to as Takeshima (竹島) and Dokdo was referred to as Matsushima (松島). These names seems to have been established in the 17th century. One might wonder where the word Matsu (松; meaning a pine tree) comes from since Dokdo has no pine trees, either. The answer seems to be in the traditional association between a pine tree and a bamboo tree in the Japanese culture. Since a bamboo (considered a tree, not a plant) makes a good match with a pine tree, giving the name Matsushima (松島) to Dokdo when Ulleungdo had the name Takeshima (竹島) probably seemed like a good idea. But were there many bamboo trees in Ulleungdo to call Ulleungdo a bamboo island? Not quite. The real source seems to come from an ancient Korean name for Ulleungdo. The full name for Ulleungdo up to the end of the 19th century was Isotakeshima (磯竹島; or イソダケ島). It was discovered that in a 17th century map made in Japan, the peak of Ulleungdo was marked as “弓崇,” which is read “Isotake” (イソダケ) in Japanese. The “弓崇” in “Idu” reading in Korean is “Wanggeomsan” (왕검산; pronounced “wahng-gum-sahn”) meaning “King’s mountain.” Wanggeom means a priest-king, i.e., the king who also serves as a priest. This title was actually used for the king of Gojoseon , a Korean kingdom founded around 2,000 B.C. “San” means a mountain or a mound. Thus, Wanggeomsan has the same meaning as “Uruma,” which is the original name for Ulleungdo. In other words, “Wanggeomsan (弓崇)” and “Uruma” have the same meaning of King’s mountain and represents Ulleungdo in their original meaning. If the Chinese characters “弓崇” are read in Japanese, the resulting sound is the sound of “isotake,” which may be written as “イソダケ” in Japanese. Many different combinations of Chinese characters may be employed to represent the sound “isotake,” of which “磯竹” is one. By combining with the word “shima (島)” to represent an island, the word “Isotakeshima” (磯竹島) was generated. Later, “Iso” dropped out and the name for Ulleungdo became Takeshima (竹島). Then the name Takeshima was applied to Dokdo instead of Ulleungdo, thereby acquiring its present meaning of Dokdo, despite the fact that there is no bamboo in Dokdo.
      Dokdo was re-discovered by western powers in the 18th Century. One of the “discoverers” of Dokdo was a whaling crew in the French whaling ship, Le Liancourt, which passed through Dokdo on January 27, 1949. (Note: the East Sea teemed with whales in the 19th century. However, the whale population in the East Sea plummeted in the 20th century due to excessive whaling.) Dokdo became known as “Liancourt Rocks” to the West after this rediscovery. A U.S. Whaling ship Cherokee, which spotted Dokdo on April 17, 1848, was actually the first western ship to discover Dokdo. (The name, Cherokee Rocks was not popularized.) The crew of a Russian naval ship Olivutsa found Dokdo on April 6, 1954, and named Seodo (see geography section below) of Dokdo as Olivutsa rock, and named Dongdo of Dokdo as Minelai Rock after another Russian ship. The English rediscovered Dokdo in April 1955, and named it “Hornet Rocks.”
      The Korean name of Dokdo also has an implication as to the identity of Dokdo as perceived by the Koreans. The last root word in the Korean language is indicative of the true nature of an object as in many other languages. Thus, a word that means “rock island” means that Dokdo was recognized as an island, not as a rock. A true English translation of the name 독도 (Dokdo) would be “Rocky Island.” To the Koreans, and to the Japanese for that matter who called Dokdo “竹島” (Takeshima; sima meaning island), Dokdo is not a group of rocks. Dokdo is an island, or a group of islands. In this regard, the name Liancourt Rocks is a misnomer because the local people consider Dokdo as an island. On this point, the Japanese name “竹島” (Takeshima) also signifies their concurrence to the classification of Dokdo as an island, not as a rock.

      Dokdo is a group of islands located between 131° 51′ ~ 131° 51′ East Meridian and 37° 14′ ~ 37° 15′ North Latitude within East Sea (Sea of Japan). Dokdo includes two main islands and about 100 small rocks in the vicinity. About 78 reefs are submerged around Dokdo.  There are five beaches with a significant area of shallow waters, of which depths do not exceed 5 feet (about 1.5 m).  The total area of Dokdo is 187,554 m2. The highest elevation is 168.5 m. The administrative address of Dokdo is San 1 ~ 37 bunji, Dokdo-ri, Ulleung-eub, Ulleung-gun, Kyungsangbukdo, Republic of Korea.
      One of the two main islands located in the east is called “Dongdo” (pronounced “dawng-daw”), meaning “Eastern Island,” and the other of the two main islands located in the west is called “Seodo” (pronounced “suh-daw”), meaning “Western Island.” Dongdo is located at 37°14′27″N, 131°52′10″E, and Seodo is located at 37°14′31″N, 131°51′55″E. Dongdo and Seodo are located 151 meters apart by a channel about 330 meters long and about 10 meters deep. Dongdo has an area of 73,297 mm2, height of 98.6 m, and a circumference of 2.8 km. Seodo has an area of 88,740 mm2, height of 168.5 m, and a circumference of 2.6 km. Dokdo is located about 87.4 km (54 miles) away from a nearby Korean island, Ulleungdo (“Ul” is pronounced as “ool” in tool and “leung” is pronounced as in lung), and is visible from Ulleungdo on clear days. Uljin in Kyungsangbukdo, Korea is the nearest land mass that is located 216.8 km away from Dokdo. Oki island in Japan is located 157.5 km away from Dokdo. Seodo has a spring that provides drinkable water.
      The islands comprise volcanic rocks with a thin layer of soil and moss. Formation of Dokdo by volcanic activities is estimated to have occurred about 4.1 million years ago, which is older than the Ulleung islands located nearby and estimated to be about 2.5 million years old. Ulleung Interplain Gap having a depth of about 2,100 m separates Dokdo from Ulleung Basin having a depth from 1,000 m to 1,200 mm and located off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula. A shallow plateau having a depth about 200 m laterally extends around Dokdo for about 13 km. From the depth of 200 m to 1,400 m, the slope of the land mass becomes relatively steep (about 16° in slope) until the depth gradually reaches 2,100 m.
      Picture to the left: Topography of the sea floor around Dokdo and Ulleungdo, all depths are in meters (source: Korea Petroleum Association)

      Picture to the left: 3D close-up image of the topographic features around Dokdo (source: Korea Ocean Research &. Development Institute). Vertical scale is exaggerated relative to horizontal scale to amplify the topographic features.

      Dokdo is currently inhabited by a married couple, lighthouse personnel, radar station personnel, and a small detachment of the Korean police.  Visitors come year around except when the sea is stormy.
      Photo above: Scenic view of Dokdo

      Housing facilities for residents and the police detachment are on Dokdo. A dock, a heliport, a radar station, and a cellular phone station are located in Dongdo. Also, a manned lighthouse is located near the peak of Dongdo. The light from the lighthouse is visible from 25 miles (40 km) away in clear nights. A cemetery for five officers who died on duty at Dokdo is located at the foot of the lighthouse. The island is very scenic. A boat tour around Dokdo costs about $37.50. Various travel packages are available with fares ranging from $150.00 to $500.00 depending on the route.

      Average temperature in Dokdo ranges from 24 °C (75 °F) in the summer to 1 °C (34 °F) in the winter. Tsushima current, which is a branch of Korushio (or Kuro Siwo) current from the North Pacific, flows through the shallow waters of Korea Straight (Strait of Tsushima) into East Sea. The warm water from the Pacific intermixes with the cold water of North Korean current in the East Sea near Dokdo and Ulleung islands to form the Ulleung Warm Eddy.

      Picture above: Surface current in East Sea. Red color arrows indicate warm currents, and blue color arrows indicate cold currents. Ulleung Warm Eddy is manifested as a clockwise circulation of warm water at the surface around Ulleungdo. (source: Department of Oceanology, Inha University, Korea)

      The temperature of the water at Dokdo ranges from 9 °C to 25 °C due to formation of the Ulleung Warm Eddy, which is relatively high for the latitude. Precipitation is high throughout the year with an annual precipitation of about 1240 mm. Precipitation in the winter season is primarily in the form of snowfall. Average wind velocity is 4.3 m/sec.
      Dokdo is heavily populated with sea birds including migratory birds. Over 100 species of sea birds have been identified at Dokdo. The numerous sea birds earned the nickname “home of birds” for Dokdo. Among the birds in Dokdo are the Swinhoe’s storm-petrel (Oceanodroma monorhis, 바다제비), the streaked shearwaters (Calonectris leucomelas, 슴새), the black-tailed gull (Larus crassirostris, 괭이갈매기), the red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus,비둘기조롱이, 붉은발조롱이), the Siberian honey buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus orientalis, 벌매), the owl (올빼미), the black kite (Milvus migrans, 솔개), the Japanese murrelet (Synthliboramphus wumizusume, 뿔쇠오리), and the swan (백조), which are protected species. Records show that fur seals and sea lions used to populate Dokdo in the past. 80 species of plants (including about 30 native plant species) and almost 100 species of insects have been found in Dokdo. More than 30 new species of microbes have been discovered in the soil of Dokdo. Over 160 species of sea weeds and over 100 species of fish have been found in the nearby waters.
      Due to the intermixing of warm current and cold current, mineral density and plankton density is higher between the Ulleung islands and Dokdo, forming a fishery belt that supplies food to birds and fishermen.
      Photo above: Dokdo – “home of birds

      Photo above: Underwater scenery: Fishes abound at Dokdo

      You can see Dokdo from Ulleungdo

      Dokdo and Ulleungdo (pronounced “ool-lung-daw”) are visible from each other. This is perhaps the most important geopolitical consideration in determining the ownership of Dokdo. Because of the visibility of these islands from each other, it is likely that Dokdo was used as occasional shelters for fisherman from Ulleungdo from prehistoric times.

      Photo above: One can see Dokdo from Ulleungdo. (Source: Dokdo Center)

      Some trigonometry

      Given this, it is truly amazing that some Japanese scholars managed to advance an argument that Dokdo cannot be seen from Ulleungdo in the past.
      But some misconceptions do not seem to go away easily. To put an end to this grounless theory, a schematic cross-sectional view of the earth along a plane including Ulleungdo (marked with “U”), Dokdo (marked with “D’), and the center of the earth (marked with “C”) is shown to the right. The first height “h1” represents the hight one needs to go up in Ulleungdo, which has a peak of 984 m. The second height “h2” represents the height corresponding to the bottom of the view from Ulleungdo. Dokdo’s peak is 168.5 m high. The radius R of the earth is 6,378.1 km. The distance d between Ulleungdo and Dokdo was approximated to be 90 km, which is greater than the shortest distance 87.5 km between the two islands. The angles and height of islands are grossly exaggerated in the schematic view to help the reader understand the formulae governing this geometry. In practice, the sum of the two angles, alpha1 and alpha2, is less than 1 degree.

      The various angles and distances are related by the formulae:
      (R + h1) x cos (alpha1) = R = (R + h2) x cos (alpha2); and
      ( alpha1 + alpha 2) ≈ d/R = 90.0 km / 6,378.1 km = 0.01411 radian = 0.8084 degree. R x (alpha1 + alpha2) is the same as the length of the arc along the surface of the water between the sea level points under the points U and D. The approximation of ( alpha1 + alpha2) ≈ d/R is valid because the total angle involved is small enough.
      In this configuration, if one climbs to the first height h1 in Ulleungdo, one can see the portion of Dokdo above the second height h2.  In other words, depending on how much of Dokdo one wants to see, one needs to climb up to different first height h1.
      In summary, for any given value for the second height h2, the first height h1 may then be calculated using the following algorithm. 
      h2 is a constant between 0 m and 168.5 m, and is selected for each round of calculation;
      h1 is an unknown to be determined by calculation;
      R is the radius of the earth in meters (6,378,100 m);
      ( alpha1 + alpha2 ) ≈ d/R = 0.01411;
      R = (R + h2) x cos (alpha2); therefore, alpha2 = arccos ( R / (R + h2) )  (the unit of alpha2 is radian);
      R = (R + h1) x cos (alpha1) = (R + h1) x cos ( 0.01411 – alpha2) 
      = (R + h1) x cos { 0.01411 - arccos ( R / (R + h2) )}; therefore,
      h1 = R / cos { 0.01411 - arccos ( R / (R + h2) ) } – R = R x [ 1 / cos { 0.01411 - arccos ( R / (R + h2) ) } – 1 ].
      The result for some selected values of h2 are:
      for h2 = 150 m (492 feet), alpha2 = 0.00686 radian, alpha1 = 0.00725 radian, and h1 = 168 m (550 feet);
      for h2 = 100 m (328 feet), alpha2 = 0.00560 radian, alpha1 = 0.00851 radian, and h1 = 230 m (754 feet);
      for h2 = 50 m (164 feet), alpha2 = 0.00396 radian, alpha1 = 0.01015 radian, and h1 = 325 m (1,066 feet); and
      for h2 = 0m (to see the water at Dokdo, alpha2 = 0.0000 radian, alpha1 = 0.0141 radian, and h1 = 634m (2,080 feet).
      The above results prove that it is not necessary to climb to the top of the peak of Ulleungdo in order to get a full view of Dokdo. Climbing to a height of about 634 m will provide a full view. At a lower height, people can get a partial view of Dokdo. The angular spread of Dokdo in a full view is about 0.005 radians ( 450 m / 90,000 m), or 0.29 degree. Anyone with normal eyesight can recongize a feature occupying this much angular spread. Practically, Dokdo will come into view on a clear day above about 200 m of height at Ulleungdo. Thus, to live in Ulleungdo for any continuous period of time is to find Dokdo. Likewise, Ulleungdo is visible from Dokdo on a clear day.
      Photo above: Map of Ulleungdo.  ”Areas with a good view of Dokdo” are marked with yellow boundaries.  The areas with a good view of Dokdo have an elevation of at least 200 m and does not any other terrain (such as a mountain or a hill) blocking the view in the direction of Dokdo (indicated by the black arrows).  The most populous portion of Ulleungdo is the middle of the east coast, which has two seaports (just above the smallest yellow boundary area).  Dokdo is also shown in the inset in the lower left.

      Usage of Dokdo by the local people of Ulleungdo

      The fishery belt formed between Ulleungdo and Dokdo makes it all the more likely that people in one island went to the other island. Since Ulleungdo was always inhabited and it was difficult to winter at Dokdo, in practical terms, the people of Ulleung island had dominion over the uninhabited island of Dokdo. In colloquial terms, Dokdo was the backyard of the people of Ulleungdo. This situation is best characterized as an archipelago including two sister islands. Ulleungdo is the elder sister island having a large inhabitable area, and Dokdo is the little sister island that the inhabitants of Ulleungdo can readily see and navigate to and use as a fishing platform, an emergency shelter, a navigational base, or an operational base for any other useful activties. Many arguments about sovereignty of Dokdo seems to forget this point. Because this point is so often forgotten, I need to mention something so obvious that might just seem silly. But this is indeed an important consideration:

      People came to Ulleungdo. Obviously, they had navigational means. It is a safe bet they knew that they could see farther when they climbed up higher. They needed to go up only about 200 m in height on the southeastern side of the island, and the island has a peak of 984 m in height. Also, it is a safe bet that they knew that things can be seen better on a clear day as opposed to on a rainy day. One can say with almost mathematical certainty that someone among the group of people who got there climbed up the highest peak of Ulleungdo on a clear day. One can also bet that the climber was not blind. He would have looked around, and voila! There was another island out there! One can also bet that that person was very excited about this, and decided to take a trip there on a good day. Thus, the pristine tranquility of Dokdo was violated forever by the first human visit. Dokdo, being abundant in fish, was probably frequented many times thereafter. In this process, Dokdo was dropped from the list of terra nullius. Since the fishermen of Ulleung islands used Dokdo, Dokdo belonged to the people of Ulleungdo by the natural gaining the property right over Dokdo by discovery, usage, and their labor therein. When one use something without objection, ownership rights accrue. The people of Ulleungdo used Dokdo, so Dokdo belonged to the people of Ulleungdo. When Ulleungdo belonged to any nation, Dokdo also belongs to that nation.

      Property rights by possession

      This point is so obvious that it does not require much logic, yet this fundamental point seems to be lost in very complicated legal arguments. The people of Ulleungdo acquired property rights by seeing it (possession based on discovery), by going there (possession based on occupancy), and by catching fish that was necessary for their living (possession based on use). Since no one else was there, their property rights were exclusive. In this light, whoever owns Ulleungdo also owns Dokdo. Any argument that tries to distinguish Dokdo from Ulleungdo is only academic in this light, and is prone to a fundamental legal challenge based on the principle of acquisition of property rights through use. In contrast, Dokdo is not visible from Oki island of Japan. Because of this invisibility, the people of Oki island probably knew about Dokdo at a later time. By that time, Dokdo was already someone else’s “backyard,” i.e., the people of Ulleungdo was already exercising their dominion over this. Also, it is very hard to claim an area as your own when you cannot see it. Such common sense considerations must be given to this situation. Further, visibility is a major consideration in the thinking of the ancients. If you see an island, that belonged to you. If you cannot, you don’t own it. Visibility of Dokdo from Ulleungdo thus provides possessory rights for Dokdo to the government that owned Ulleungdo. Since Korea was a civilized nation, and could not be classified as land inhabited by barbarians, no property of Korea or Korean people could be annexed by legal means to the territory of any other nation by discovery or otherwise.

      Property rights by exercise of exclusive dominion

      The property rights of the people of Ulleungdo over Dokdo was exclusive. Historical evidences from the Korean side and the Japanese side agree that the people of Ulleungdo exercised exclusive property rights over Dokdo by forcing Japanese fishermen out of the region. Any use by Japanese fishermen had to be done in a stealthy manner.

      An archipelago of Ulleungdo and Dokdo

      The view that Ulleungdo and Dokdo form a group of related islands, an archipelago, seems to have been taken as granted by Koreans in the 19th century and the wester powers. Specifically, in “Carte de la Coree,” the first map of Korea completed in 1846 by a Korean in a foreign language, Ulleungdo and Dokdo are represented as ‘”Is. Dagelet,” reflecting the recognition of Dokdo and Ulleungdo as sister island in the same archipelago. This map went to France, and was subsequently copied into various western maps. The ship log of a U.S. whaling ship Florida dated March 27, 1857 recorded Dokdo as “Dagelet Rock,” reflecting their recognition of Dokdo as a rock that naturally belongs to Dagelet, if Dagelet is construed to mean a single inhabited island. The Florida ship log of April 7, 1857 records that the ship was between Dagelet and Dagelet Rock, and that they were able to see both Dagelet and Dagelet Rock. Dagelet was known to mean a group of islands including Ulleungdo and Dokdo if Dokdo was to be counted as an independent island as in the map “Carte de la Coree,” or Dokdo was recognized as naturally belonging to Ulleungdo if Dokdo was to be counted as a rock instead of an island as in the ship log of Florida reflecting judgments of international sailors. Thus, one can assert that the notion that Ulleungdo and Dokdo were tied within an island group was already accepted by the western powers by this time.

      You cannot miss Dokdo if you live on the southeastern side of Ulleungdo

      Some historians, especially those on the Japanese side, argue that the people of Ulleungdo did not know about Dokdo and the many names of two islands in Korean and Japanese literature could mean Ulleungdo and a rock near Ulleungdo. But anybody that climbs the southeastern side of Ulleungdo on a clear day to a height greater than 200 m can see Dokdo. Any long time resident on the southeastern side (and south side and eastern side) of Ulleungdo will discover Dokdo in time in a very natural manner. And many of them knew how to navigate. The fact that they got there shows that they knew how to navigate. When people navigated into Polynesian islands thousands of years ago, any argument that the local people were so backwards that they could not have navigated to another island that they could see sounds like mere sophistry. As we will see below, all major historic records refer to two islands in East Sea, not one. In an age when writing was an expensive exercise, the ancients and the medieval people were trying to say something by specifying two islands, instead of one. Only Ulleungdo and Dokdo are significant enough to spend ink on, and could logically counted as these two islands. Attempts to identify any other rock close to Ulleungdo as the second island is mere sophistry. Ulleungdo and Dokdo are the only true archipelago of two sister islands worthy of the ink to spend from the view point of the ancient people.

      1.1 Relics in Ulleungdo

      The discussion of history of Dokdo invariably involves the history of Ulleungdo (울릉도; pronounced “ooh-lung-daw”). The Korean origin of Ulleungdo is indisputable given the bronze age relics that are distinctly Korean. For example, three Korean style dolmens attributable to a period between about 300 B.C. to about 1 A.D. have been located in Ulleungdo. A dolmen is a stone tomb built with two or more supporting rocks and a flat rock at the top.

      A dolmen is called Goindol (고인돌) in Korean, which literally means “supported (stabilized) rocks.” Present day territories of North Korea and South Korea include about 30,000 dolmens, which is about 40 % of all dolmens in the world. The Ulleundgo Inspection Report by Gyu-Won Yi in 1882 documents observation of many dolmens in Ulleungdo. In addition, the shapes of other bronze age relics also establish the link between the people of Ulleungdo before incorporation into the Kingdom of Shilla in 512 A.D. See for further archeological details.

      Photo to the upper right: An example of a Korean dolmen. The suporting rocks and the top rock provide a “resting place” for the buried body underneath. Such dolmens are ubiquitous in present day Korea and in eastern China, which were the territory of Goguryeo and Gojoseon , a previous Korean kingdom. (source: Norea National Heritage Online)
      1.2 Rock carvings at Bangudae, Ulsan

      Based on the estimated navigational skill level of the people at that time, Dokdo was probably known to the people of Ulleungdo at prehistoric times. The rock carvings at Bangudae (반구대; pronounced “bahn-goo-dae” with “ae” making the “a” sound in “cat”), Ulsan in Korea, in which images of a whaling ship accommodating about 20 sailors, gives some clue as to the navigational skills of the people that settled in Ulleungdo. Ulsan is located to the southwest of Ulleungdo and Dokdo. If the people in Ulleungdo engaged in whaling, it is a safe assumption that Dokdo would have been spotted. By the time Usan-guk was established, the presence of Dokdo was certainly known to the local people because later written records (Samguk Sagi) unique features of the two islands in East Sea – that they can be seen from each other (only) on a clear day. Dokdo was within the domain of the local kingdom of Usan-guk, and most likely, the local people used Dokdo to support their livelihood, for example, fishing.

      Photo to the left:
      Scholars believe that the rock carvings at Bangudae was made between the neolithic age and early iron age over a period of time. This puts the age of the rock carvings between 10,000 B.C. and 100 B.C.

      Photo above left: A traced copy of the rock carvings at Babgudae shows a whale hit by a harpoon. 
      Photo above right: A traced copy of the rock carvings at Bangudae shows a whale and a whaling ship.
      (source: Myungsu Jang, Korea Rock Carving Society) 

      2.1 Usan-guk as recorded in Samguk Sagi

      The first written reference to Dokdo appears in a Korean history book titled “Samguk Sagi” (삼국사기, 三國史記; meaning “History of Three Kingdoms”). Samguk Sagi is the oldest extant Korean history book that was compiled in 1145 A.D. by a historian Bu Shik Kim. Samguk Sagi records the Korean history during the “Three Kingdom Period” which spans the period from 57 B.C. to 668 A.D. According to Samguk Sagi, Isabu, a general of Shilla conquered and annexed “Usan-guk.” Usan-guk refers to Ulleungdo and Dokdo collectively.

      Photo to the left: A page of Samguk Sagi describing the Shilla’s conquest and annexation of “Usan-guk.” Usan-guk means the Kingdom of Usan (Upper mountain).

      The Original text includes:
      智證麻立干十三年夏六月于山國歸服歲以土宜爲貢于山國在溟州正東海 島或名鬱陵島地方一百里恃 不服伊飡異斯夫爲何瑟羅州軍主 謂于山人愚悍難以威來 可以計服
      乃多造木偶獅子 分載戰船抵其國海岸 告曰汝若不服則放此猛獸踏殺之國


      “Book 4

      On the thirteenth year (512 A.D.) of Jijeung Maribgan ( King), on the sixth month in the summer, Usan-guk was subjugated and offered local produces as a tribute. Usan-guk is located due east of Myungju (present day Gangleung in Korea) and is also called Ulleungdo (鬱陵島). The land spans 100 ri (40 km; 25 miles) in all directions. The people of Usan wanted to resist relying on their rugged terrain. Ichan (Shilla’s governmental position) Isabu became the military lord of Hasla Province (何瑟羅州). Isabu said that “the people of Usanguk are foolish and ferocious, and it will be difficult to persuade them with authority. We should use tricks to subjugate these people.
      Thus, they made wooden lions and loaded them into their warships. When they reached the shore of Usan-guk, they proclaimed that they would let the ferocious beasts loose and have the inhabitants killed. The people of Usang-guk became afraid and they surrendered soon.”

      Picture to the left: The campaign of Isabu Kim in 512 A.D. Hasla (present day Gangreung) was a newly acquired land from Goguryeo at that time. 

      At this time of the “Three Kingdom” period, there were actually four Kingdoms: Goguryeo (pronounced “gaw-gooh-ruh”), Shilla (pronounced “shil-lah”), Baekje (pronounced “back-jay”), and Gaya (pronounced “gah-yah”). Gaya was the weakest and did not play a major role. Gaya was also the first to perish among the four by being absorbed to Shilla in 562 A.D. Thus, the major three Kingdoms are counted for the “Three Kingdom Period” in Korean history: Goguryeo, Baekje, and Shilla.
      The authenticity of the record in Samguk Sagi is supported by archaeological evidences and general accuracy of Korean records for this period. For example, a large stone tablet known as Naengsu-ri bi (냉수리비; 冷水里碑) and recoding acts of Jijeung Maribgan (described with another Korean name “Jidoro Galmunwang” (지도로갈문왕; 至都盧 葛文王) was found in was Naengsu-ri (냉수리), Yeongil (영일), Korea. 

      2.2 The link between Dokdo and Usan-guk

      While the Japanese position points out lack of a direct reference to Dokdo, later maps identify two islands, and some Korean literature establish direct link between the island of Usan and the Japanese name Songdo for Dokdo.

      The identification of two islands is supported by a publication in 1454 A.D. titled “Sejoing Shillok Jiriji” (세종실록지리지; 世宗實錄地理志) or Annals of King Sejoing, section “Geography,” which states:
      于山武陵二島 在(蔚珍)縣 正東海中 二島相去不遠風日淸明 則可望見 新羅時 稱于山國 一云鬱陵島 地方百里
      “There are two islands of Usan (pronounced “ooh-san”) and Mulleung (pronounced “moo-lung”) are located due east of Uljin-Hyun (the District of Uljin). The two islands are not far away from each other (相去不遠) so that they can be seen (from each other)* on a clear day. During the dynasty of Shilla, they were called ‘Usan-guk’ (pronounced “ooh-san-gook”). Another name is “Ulleungdo” (鬱陵島) and the range is 100 ri (40 km, 25 miles).” (Note: The lateral span of Ulleungdo is about 10 km, and the distance between the two islands is 87.4 km.)

      Photo to the left: Another record, Goryeosa (고려사; 高麗史; “History of Goryeo“) Jiriji (geography section), which was published in 1451, provides a similar description as

      Sejoing Shillok Jiriji of 1454. 

      (see the photo to the left):

      有鬱陵島 在縣正東海中 新羅時 稱于山國 一云武陵 一云羽陵…

      一云于山․  武陵本二島 相距不遠 風日淸明 則可望見․”
      “In the middle of the Sea, due east of (Uljin)-hyun is ‘Ulleungdo’ (鬱陵島). During the time of Shilla, this was Usan-guk. Another name (for the same) is Mulleung (武陵). Yet another name (for the same) is Ureung (羽陵). …

      (Ulleungdo is) also called “Usan (

      于山) and Mulleung (武陵), constituting two islands, which are not far away from each other (相去不遠) so that they can be seen (from each other)* on a clear day.”


      (*note on the syntactically implied phrase “from each other”: The first phrase “from each other” is explicit in the expression “相去不遠.” The second expression for “from each other” is omitted as any grammatically conscientious writer would be because repetition of the phrase “from each other” in the same sentence would make the sentence look unpolished. Based on the lack of a second explicit phrase of “from each other,” some imaginative proponents of Japanese claim to Dokdo assert that this passage should be interpreted to mean that the two islands can be seen from the mainland of Korea. This interpretation is not only grammatically incorrect, but also impossible. Even the island of Ulleungdo (which is the closer and taller of the two) cannot be seen from the mainland of Korea with bare eyes. Observation of Ulleungdo from the mainland of Korea became possible only with the advent of high-magnification telescopic camera in the 20th century. On a lighter note, no records in Korea or Japan mention any man with a superhuman telescopic view.)
      As the power of Shilla declined and a new Korean kingdom Goryeo (고려; 高麗; the name “Korea” originates from “Goryeo”) was gaining hegemony in Korea, the leaders to Ulleungdo wanted to be subjected to the rising dominant power, Goryeo. The events during the period of Goryeo (918 – 1392) were compiled between 1392 and 1451, which are the early years of Chosun (the next Korean dynasty). According to Goryeosa, two local people from “Ureungdo” (芋陵島; 우릉도) named Baek-gil and Tae-du came to see the King of Goryeo in 930 A.D. and offered local produces. In return, the King (referring to Geon Wang, the first King of Goryeo) gave them the position of Jeongwi and Jeongjo, respectively. Thus, the territory of Usan-guk became the territory of Goryeo, which subsequently incorporated other Korean kingdoms including Shilla.

      3.1 Etymology of the word Mulleung (武陵)

      Ulleungdo (pronounced “ooh-lung-daw”) and Dokdo were referred to Mulleung and Usan. Mulleung was also referred to as Ureung or Ulleung. The dominant view is that Mulleung (武陵) always refered to Ulleungdo, but a minority view is that Mulleung may have referred to Dokdo at some point in time. It is also possible that the assignment of the name Mulleung shifted from one island to another in time, which seems to have occurred repeated even in subsequent names for Dokdo.
      The etymology for Ulleungdo provides an interesting insight into the perception of these islands to the Koreans at that time. A purely Korean name for Ulleungdo seems to have been “Uruma” or “Urumö (Urumoe)” according to Yong-Ha Shin, a Korean historian who studies the two islands. “Uru” means a king, a lord, or an emperor, and “ma” or “mö” means a mountain, a peak, a mound, or a tomb (because the Korean tombs are mounds). To write the name for Ulleungdo in Chinese characters, “Uru” is shortened to “Ul” (; 울) to maintain the sound, and “ma” was represented by “leung” (; 릉) to maintain the meaning “mound.” Thus, the word Ulleungdo (鬱陵島) is a composite worid including the sound of Uruma and the meaning of Uruma. There is also an alternative view that “U” came from the local name of “Ujunya” of Uljin. Either way, it is clear that “U” or “Ul” is a phonetic translation of the original Korean name, and “leungdo” is a translation of the meaning of the original word.
      Since the first Chinese character was only for the sound, other Chinese characters that make the same sound were also used. Among them is the character “武,” which is read “mu” in present day Korean reading but is likely to have been read as “u (pronounced “ooh”)” in ancient Korean reading around 1,000 A.D.

      3.2. The legend of “Peach Source of Wuling”

      The combination of “武” (무) and” (릉) generates the word “武陵” (Mulleung), which is a proper noun for a Chinese place name having an interesting legend. The imagination of the Korean people at that time added an interesting spin on the meaning of the name Mulleung (武陵) for Ulleungdo.
      A Chinese legend of “Peach Source of Wuling” (武陵桃源; 무릉도원) relates a story of a fisherman during the time of Xiaowudi (孝武帝; 효무제; 453 – 464 A.D.) of Jin (晋; ; 265 – 420 A.D.) dynasty. (“Wuling” is Chinese reading, “Mulleung” is present day Korean reading, and “Ulleung” is a likely ancient Korean reading.) According to the story, a fisherman of Wuling follows a river through a beautiful forest to a mountain with a cave. As he passed through the narrow cave, he found a beautiful place filled with happy people and blossoming peach trees. When the fisherman inquired, the residents said that their ancestors arrived there to avoid the troubled world some time in the past. The fisherman tried to return to that place later on, but he could not locate that place. When the Koreans learned of this legend, the name Mulleung (武陵; 무릉) became associated with the story of the Peach Source of Wuling.
      The use of the same name Mulleung (武陵) to refer to one of the islands is indicative of the Korean perception that these islands were idyllic places where fish are abundant and one can be free from worldly worries just like the world behind the cave in the Chinese legend. Even if Ulleungdo and Dokdo were not a paradise, the Korean people wanted to image a paradise there in the same manner that the Greek people dreamed of Elysium, an “isle of the blessed” in the words of Hesiod, a Greek poet. The legend of the “Peach Source of Wuling” probably captured the imagination of some Koreans, and they used this name to describe one of the two islands. Indeed, “Mulleung” seems to have a peaceful and prosperous place between 512 A.D. and the beginning of the 12th century. The peace and quiet in Ulleungdo would soon be shattered with the invasion of parates from the north, disrupting the life in the “Korean paradise” that some Koreans at that time dreamed of.

      3.3 Political Turmoil in Manchuria

      In the last years of the Liao(;요) dynasty (907 – 1125) founded by the Qidan (契丹; 거란) tribes of Manchuria, the government of Liano could not provide effective control over the tribes in northern Korea. In 1115, Jin (金; 금) dynasty was founded by one of the northern Jurchen (女眞; 여진; originates from the word “Jusen”; also called “Ruzhen” or “Nuzhen”) tribes in Manchuria. The Jurchens were a Tungus people using an Altaic language and previsouly under the rules of Goguryeo and Balhae, two consecutive Korean kingdoms in Manchuria until the fall of Balhae in 926 A.D. The Jurchins later found Qing dynasty, and became known as Manchus in the 17th century. (Note: Interestingly, the ancestry of Jin’s Emperors is actually Korean, originating from Hambo Kim (函普), a refugee from Shilla. “Jin” (金; 금) is the same as the common Korean surname “Kim” (金; 김).) Around the founding of the Jin dynasty, the power of the Liao dynasty was significantly weakened after military defeats from the newly founded Jin dynasty. In 1120, the Song dynasty (a Chinese dynasty based in the southern part of China) breaks a 116-year-old peace treaty with the Liao dynasty by allying with the Jin dynasty and attacked the territory of the Liao dynasty. The Liao dynasty eventually collapsed in 1125 with the capture of the last emperor. The political tumult in this region provided chances for piracy for some northeastern Jurchen (女眞; 여진) tribes, who inhabited northern parts of present day Korea.

      Picture to the left: Estimated raiding path of northeastern Jurchen tribes around 1018.

      3.4 Mulleung is raided by northeastern Jurchen tribes

      Apparently, the northeastern Jurchen tribes raided Ulleungdo many times. The idyllic life at Ulleungdo was disrupted for good. Goryeosa provides records of subsequent events in Ulleungdo. The repeated raiding Ulleungdo by the northeastern Jurchen tribes left Ulleungdo desolete. The northeastern Jurchen tribes also raided Japanese towns at this time, which is recorded in Japanese history books.
      Goryeosa relates an event of 1018, in which King Heonjong dispatched Won-Gu Lee to provide farming equipments to the people of “Usan-guk” (于山國; 우산국). Despite the reconstruction efforts, the people of Ulleungdo continued to leave the island under the adverse conditions. Goryeosa also records an event of 1022, in which a Provincial Marshall of Gyeongsang region recommended settling the people of Usan-guk in Yeju (present day Yeonghae), and the King followed his recommendations. A 1032 entry in Goryeosa records that the Castle-Lord of Ureung (羽陵城主; 우릉성주) sent local produce. Goryeo had built a castle to defend Ulleungdo from the raiding pirates. The local population seems to have decreased significantly, however, during this period. Local knowledge, including the location of Dokdo and how to navigate to an from there, seems to have been lost at this time.

      3.5 End of a Korean dream of Paradise and depopulation of Mulleung

      An 1141 entry in Goryeosa records that a provincial governor of present day Gangwondo dispatched people to Ulleungdo, took fruits and leaves, and offered to the King. Ulleungdo seems to have been managed by the local government at this point. A 1157 entry in Goryeosa records that King Eujong dispatched an official Yu-Rim Kim based on the information that there was large fertile land in Ureungdo (羽陵島; 우릉도) and that there used to be a governmental district (州縣; 주현) there. Upon return, Yu-Rim Kim reports that the soil contains a lot of rocks, rendering the land unsuitable for habitation. The governmental re-population project was abandoned temporarily.
      According to Revised Encyclopedia of Records (增補文獻備考; 증보문헌비고), there was a governmental re-population project in late 12th century. Based upon Chung-Heon Choi’s assertion that the soil of Ulleungdo was fertile and that the land offers many exotic trees and produces of the sea, governmental officials sent many people from inland to Ulleungdo. The project ran into trouble when many ships were capsized during storms and people were lost. Eventually, the project was abandoned, and the people were brought back. If there was a re-population of Ulleungdo, that was going to be an unofficial project.
      The loss of population in Ulleungdo had a significant effect on later history of the two islands. As the local geographic knowledge became lost, significant confusion arose in the understanding of the identity and location of the two islands. This situation was perhaps exacerbated by the inherent dual meaning of the word “Usan,” one as one of the two islands and the other as the realm of Usan, or “Usan-guk”.

      4.1 Example of use of Usan to connote two islands

      Many Korean records after Samguk Sagi, Goryeosa, and Sejoing Shillok Jiriji document Dokdo as Korean territory. Some confusion was introduced due to the dual meaning of the term Usan, or Usando. When Usan and Mulleung are explicitly recited together, Mulleung (or Ulleung) meant Ulleungdo and Usan meant Dokdo. When only the term Usan was used without reciting Mulleung (or Ulleung), the term Usan meant the two islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo collectively.
      An example of this dual meaning of Usan is best illustrated by the following example:
      Annals of King Taejong, entry of February 5, 1417:
      按撫使金麟雨 還自于山島 獻土産大竹水牛皮生苧綿子檢樸木等物 且率居人三名以來 其島戶凡十五口 男女幷八十六
      “Anmusa (Constable) In-Wu Kim came back from Usando. He offered the local produce of long bamboo, skin of water cow (seal?), burlap, cotton, Gumbakmok (檢樸木; some type of wood), etc. He brought back 3 residents from there. The number of households is 15, and the number of men and women is 86.”

      In this usage, Usando refers to both islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo since the full title of In-Wu Kim was “Mulleung-deungcheo-Anmusa” (武陵等處安撫使; 무릉등처안무사) meaning “Constable for Mulleung and other places” according to September 2, 1416 entry of Annals of King Taejong (see below). What other places? Jukdo does not produce drinkable water. Only Dokdo can support permanent residence other than Ulleungdo. 

      4.2 Example of use of Mulleung to connote Ulleungdo

      An example of the use of Mulleung to refer to Ulleungdo is provided at Annals of King Taejong, entry of September 2, 1416.
      以金麟雨爲武陵等處安撫使 戶曹參判朴習啓 臣嘗爲江原道都觀察使 聞武陵島周回七息 傍有小島 其田可五十餘結 所入之路 纔通一人 不可並行 昔有方之用者 率十五家入居 或時仮倭爲寇 知其島者

      (The King) appointed In-Wo Kim “Mulleung-deungcheo-Anmusa” (武陵等處安撫使; 무릉등처안무사). Secretary of Taxation Seup Park said (to the King) that “When I was the Provincial Governor of Gangwon Province, circumference of Mulleungdo is 7 shiks (note: 30 ri = 1 shik; 7 shiks = 84 km, the peripheral distance is actually 56.5 km according to modern measurement). There is a small island nearby (probably refers to Jukdo). The area of farmland is 50 gyeols (between 455,060 m2 to 1,824058 m2 depending on the productivity of land, most likely toward the upper side because the land in Ulleungdo is not top quality land). The entrance is narrow to let only one person through. Previously, one Ji-Yong Bang led 15 families and entered the island. Some times, they stole (from others inland) like fake Japanese (raiders) (仮倭). There is someone who knows about the island in Samcheok.” (note: This person was In-Wo Kim who is later summoned and appointed as “Mulleung-deungcheo-Anmusa.)

      In this usage, Mulleung refers to Ulleungdo. Note that the least estimate of the farm area alone (455,060 m2) exceeds the total area of Jukdo, which has a total area of 207,869 m2 or Dokdo, which has a total area of 73,297 mm2. A separate mention of Usan here would indicate Dokdo.

      4.3 Example of use of “Usan-Mulleung” to connote two islands

      It is interesting to note that In-Wu Kim’s title changes to “Usan-Mulleung-deungcheo-Anmusa” (于山武陵等處安撫使; 우산무릉등처안무사) as of February 8, 1417. A likely scenario is that In-Wu Kim’s report mentioned on the entry of February 5, 1417 in Annals of King Taejong caused some confusion by stating that he came back from Usan, by which he probably meant the general area including the two islands. The island he was referring to was Ulleungdo, which was inhabited by people. In the minds of the government officials, Usan and Mulleung were two distinct islands. If In-Wu Kim came back from Usando, the government officials might have thought, “what about Mulleung?” In the minds of the governmental officials and cartographers, there were two islands, Mulleung and Usan – this was certain. The relative location and naming of the two islands may have been confusing to the government officials and cartographers as evidenced by the reference to present day Ulleungdo as Usan and Mulleung in the two entries of Annals of King Taejong. As the name Mulleung (subsequently Ulleung) became associated with present day Ulleungdo, the confusion subsided and the term Usan was used for Dokdo alone, or, less frequently, for the group of islands including Ulleungdo and Dokdo. Some theorize that the name for present day Ulleungdo was Usan and that the original name for Dokdo was Mulleung. This theory does not change the conclusion in any significant way. There were two islands in East Sea that are separated from each other by a distance so that they can be seen from each other (only) on a clear day. This part was never questioned by any governmental official or any cartographer.
      Photo above: 1530 Korean map “Complete map of 8 provinces,” printed in Donggukyeojiseungram shows Ulleungdo (represented as “鬱陵島”(Ulleungdo)) and Dokdo (represented as 于山島 (Usando) and placed to the left of Ulleungdo – an erroneous placement in terms of thier relative position) as Korean territory. The map was fitted to the page, causing severe distortion of proportionality. Notice that there are two islands on the map, not one, in East Sea. Note that Tsushima island was also part of Korean territory at this time, which is consistent with other historic records until early Chosun (or “Choseon”) dynasty.

      The governmental officials’ desire to make sure that In-Wo Kim was going to search all two islands nearby is illustrated in the following record. An August 8,1425 entry of Annals of King Sejong reports the title of In-Wu Kim as “Usan-Mulleung-deungcheo-Anmusa,” meaning (Constable of Usan, Mulleung, and other plances). While the governmental officials of that time at Seoul were very sure that there were two islands, the relative locations of these two islands were fuzzy in their minds. Both the larger island of Ulleungdo and the smaller island Dokdo became populated at some point despite the government’s efforts. This seems to have led to the perception, especially for non-local people, that somehow Ulleungdo and Usan have comparable sizes to support human habitation although Dokdo is much smaller in reality. This perception may be responsible for the larger-than-life sizes of Dokdo in later maps.
      All of Korean islands were suffering from raiding Japanese pirates. The government of Chosun became concerned that populated islands may be used as a logistics base for a raiding Japanese pirates. Residents of Ulleungdo and Dokdo were forcefully vacated to prevent usage by raiding Japanese pirates whenever possible. Despite this policy, desperate people from inland seem to have run away to Ulleungdo and Dokdo. After all, life as an exile can be much better than other choices for some people such as criminals. And it was easy to become one at that time by not paying taxes, or more accurately, by not being able to pay taxes.

      The name Ulleungdo seems to have come to common usage around this time. But where was the second island, this island of “Usan”? It is very likely that some Korean people actually inhabited Dokdo at least at some point around this time . This was partly because Ulleungdo was now patrolled by the officers of the government of Chosun (Korea), and the vegabonds were driven to a more remote area, i.e., Dokdo.

      5.1 Background of the search for “Sambongdo”

      The name Sambongdo appears for the first time in the records of 1470, and seems to have lasted at least until people realize that Usan and Sambongdo are the same. To complicate the matter, the name Sambongdo is later applied to Ulleungdo, and Dokdo regains the name Usan after the link between the lost island of Usan and the newly found Sambongdo, as applied to Dokdo, is established. Due to the shifts in names, efforts to prove a point employing two records belonging to different times can sometimes produce an anomaly and/or erroneous conclusions unless the records specifically mention the prior names and correlate them to the name at that time. Research on Dokdo must avoid such pitfalls.
      As some Korean people ran away to Dokdo, a rumor began to spread that people are now hiding at this three-peak island, “Sambongdo” (pronounced “sahm-bawng-daw”). Now, Sambongdo needed to be located and the people there needed to be controlled. Having temporarily lost the link between Usan and Sambongdo, the government of Chosun decided to located the refugee of vegabonds, Sambongdo, evidently not realizing that Sambongdo is the same as Dokdo. Had Ulleungdo been allowed to be populated, the search for Sambongdo would not have been necessary since a local resident needs to climb up only by 200 m in vertcal height on the southeastern side of Ulleungdo to locate Dokdo. The policy of removing residents from Ulleungdo (and other islands) for the purpose of denying rading pirates resulted in loss of local knowledge, and confusion about the identity and location of Dokdo. Thus, a situation occured in which the Korean military officers thought that there was another island called Sambongdo, which was a name given to Dokdo by the few people who went to Ulleungdo or Dokdo. This confusion lasted until Sambongdo that they were searching for was later identified and recognized as Usan.

      5.2 Sambongdo is an island other than Ulleundo

      From the records, it is clear that Sambongdo was an island distinct from Ulleung island, which was by then well known to the governmental officers in Seoul and local governmental officers.
      Annals of King Seongjong (i.e., “Sejoing Shillok“) July 12, 1472 entry states:

      三峯島敬差官朴宗元與所領軍士, 分乘四船, 去五月二十八日, 自蔚珍浦發去, 卽遇大風四散。 朴宗元之船, 東北去, 二十九日平明, 向東南, 望見武陵島, 可十五里, 復遇大風, 船纜絶, 漂流大洋中, 不知東西者七晝夜。
      Gyeongchagwan (敬差官; 경차관; Investigator; a temporary governmental position for investigating loss of harvest or public opinion) of Sambongdo Jong-Won Park lead his soldiers in four ships. The fleet departed Uljin-po (port of Uljin; 蔚珍浦; 울진포) on May 28, 1472. A great wind scattered the fleet everywhere. The ship of Jong-Won Park drifted northwest. In the morning of May 29, the ship was about 15 ri (6 km, 4 miles) off the coast of Mulleungdo (武陵島; 무릉도). Again, a great gust blew. The anchor line got broken and the ship drifted for 7 days and nights without being able to tell east from west.” (note: They made their way back after this ordeal in the end.)

      5.3 A voyage to Sambongdo

      A later record in Annals of King Seongjong reports an event of 1476 in the following passage, in which Dokdo is referred to as Sambongdo:

      ‘永興人金自周言: ‘往見三峯島, 且圖其形。’ 送自周以進。” 命問之, 自周對曰: “於鏡城海濱乘舟, 行四晝三夜, 見島屹然, 而有人三十餘, 列立島口, 有烟氣。 其人衣白, 形貌遠不能詳, 然其大槪乃朝鮮人也, 懼見執, 不能進也。” 賜襦衣二領。(Record of October 22, 1476)
      Report by the Provincial Governor of Yeong-An-do, Geuk-Gyun Lee:

      ‘Ja-Ju Kim of Yeongheung said ‘I have been to and seen Sambongdo. I drew a map of that place.” Therefore, I am sending Ja-Ju Kim (to You) to offer his map. I commanded (my officers) to ask him. Ja-Ju answered “I boarded a ship at the shore of Gyeongseong, and sailed for four days and three nights. I saw a certain island. There were thirty-some people there (而有人三十餘). They stood at the entrance to the island. There was smoke (from fire). The people wore white clothes. I was too far away to see their face. Most of them were Korean people. I was afraid of advancing any more for fear that I might be caught.” I gave a gift of two military suits (for the story and the map).”

      Picture to the left: Reconstruction of the estimated route of the party of Ja-Ju Kim in their voyage to and from Sambongdo in 1476. 

      The initial discovery of Sambongdo seems to have taken a rather indirect route. It is most likely that Ja-Ju Kim’s party headed west upon discovery of Sambongdo during a return voyage.

      The features of Sambongdo in the another record clearly indicate that Sambongdo referred to Dokdo. The October 27, 1476 entry of the same record elaborates on the feature of Sambongdo (Dokdo):


      “永興人金自周供云: ‘本道觀察使, 以三峯島尋覓事, 遣自周及宋永老與前日往還金興、金漢京、李吾乙亡等十二人, 給麻尙船五隻入送, 去九月十六日於鏡城地瓮仇未發船向島, 同日到宿富寧地靑巖, 十七日到宿會寧地加隣串, 十八日到宿慶源地末應大, 二十五日西距島七八里許, 到泊望見, 則於島北有三石列立, 次小島, 次巖石列立, 次中島, 中島之西又有小島, 皆海水通流。 亦於海島之間, 有如人形別立者三十, 因疑懼不得直到, 畫島形而來。’

      ‘臣等謂往年朴宗元由江原道發船, 遭風不至而還, 今漢京等發船於鏡城瓮仇未, 再由此路出入, 至畫島形而來, 今若更往, 可以尋覓。 請於明年四月風和時, 選有文武才者一人入送。’ 從之。

      Secretary of Defense stated:
      The transcript of Ja-Ju Kim of Yeongheung states ‘Regarding the search of Sambongdo by the Provincial Governor, I gave 5 boats to a total of 12 people including Ja-Ju Kim, Yeong-Ro Song, and some people who have been there previously (Heung Kim, Han-Gyeong Kim, and O-Eul-Mang Lee) and sent them off. The ships departed from Onggumi (甕仇未; 옹구미; a port close the northern border of present day North Korea) in Gyeongseong toward the island. On the same day, the boats arrived at Cheongam (靑巖;청암) of Buryeong (富寧; 부령) and we spent the night there. On the 17th, we arrived at Garingoji (加隣串, 가린곶이) and spend the night there. On the 18th, we arrived at Maleungdae (末應大; 말응대) and spent the night there. On the 25th, we arrived at the island and anchored at about 7 – 8 ri ( 3 km) and looked at the island. Three rocks (三石; 삼석) were standing to the north (of the island). Then there was a small island (小島; 소도). Then there stood a (medium size) rock (巖石; 암석). Then there was a middle island (中島; 중도). To the west of the middle island was another small island (小島; 소도). The sea water passes through all of these. Between the sea islands (海島) stood 30 people. We were confounded and afraid, so we drew the shape of the island and came back.’
      ‘This is our opinion: The party of Jong-Won Park departed from Gangwon Province, encountered adverse wind, and came back without reaching there. The party of Han-Gyeong Kim departed from Onggumi (甕仇未; 옹구미) in Gyeongseong and went to that island and came back with the drawing of this island. If we go again, we should be able to find this island again. Please pick one of knowledge and martial skills in next April when the wind is warmer, and let him go there.’ The recommendations were followed.”
      5.4. Sambongdo was Dokdo

      The only island in East Sea that fits this description is Dokdo. Ulleungdo is too big to be surveyed from a distance of 3 km (the diameter of Ulleungdo is about 10 km), and the water does not flow through. Jukdo, a small island near Ulleungdo, does not comprise multiple islands through which sea water flows. Further, one who locates Jukdo cannot miss Ulleungdo, which was known to be a different island at that time. Only Dokdo has the feature of letting the sea water through “sea islands” and rocks. Based on survey of Dokdo at various angles and the direction of the trip (approach from northeast), one theory suggests that the middle island refers to Seodo, and that the direction of the view was from northeast toward southwest. See the surface current map in Climate and Ecology chapter. See
      Photo to the left:
      3 rocks to the north; a small island, a (medium size) rock, a middle island, and another small island to the west of the middle island; and the sea water passes through all of these; these features be apparent to one approaching Dokdo from the north. The arrows show directions of view from 3 km away ( 7 ~ 8 ri). Note that Seodo (marked “a medium island” js 168.5 m high, and Dongdo (marked “a small island”) is 98.6 m high. Thus, relative to Seodo, Dongdo would look smaller. The second small island to the west (actually a rock) would have looked much smaller. No other island in East Sea seems to meet this description.

      Dokdo could have supported human habitation because the quantity of water from a spring at Seodo is sufficient to support at least 200 people. Additional springs have been found around Dokdo. Whether many of these springs were known to the people in the 14th century is not known. Records indicate that some trees were there, although the trees became depleted in modern times. Did Ja-Ju Kim see really people? Why would they be standing at the entrance to the island on a summer day? Were they fishing? It is hard to believe that one can identify people from a 3 km distance, which Ja-Ju Kim himself concedes. If they object Ja-Ju Kim saw were really white, they would have been real people, justifying his presumption that they were Koreans (Since Koreans wore white clothes). Or, is it possible that Ja-Ju Kim saw were sea lions? Considering that it was early June (in lunar calendar), i.e., it was high summer (late June or early July in solar calendar), this scenario is possible. After all, we are discussing the nature of the objects that Ja-Ju Kim’s party saw from 3 km ( ~ 2 miles) away. Who has such an eyesight to be able to tell an object 2 miles away with certainty? What about the smoke? It may have been real smoke from cooking. If there were people at Dokdo, they needed to eat three times a day (perhaps fish?), so someone was probably preparing food. Once Ja-Ju Kim’s party saw the smoke, it is very likely that whatever they saw was associated with people including the thirty-some objects they saw at the mouth of the island. Whatever the true situation may have been, the place that the party of Ja-Ju Kim found was most certainly Dokdo based on the descriptions of geographic features because Ulleungdo has a 984-meter-high peak (3,228 feet), and the sea water does not pass through Ulleungdo. If either the record on the smoke is or the rumor that people ran away to Sambongdo to be believed, people inhabited Dokdo for some time. For further reference, see:

      6.1 Ganggyego

      Some Korean history books provide an explicit description of ownership of Dokdo. A 1756 History book titled “Border History” (강계고; 疆界考) by Gyeong-Jun Shin describes historical borders of the Korean territory. The original text of the section on Ulleungdo provides:


      欝陵島 欝一作藯 一作芋 一作羽 一作武 二島 一卽于山 在藯珍縣東海中 與日本之隱岐州相近……
      愚按輿地志云 一說于山欝陵本一島 而考諸圖志二島也 一則倭所謂松島 而盖二島 俱是于山國也
      Ulleungdo: The character for Ul may be (울 in Korean), (울 in Korean), 芋 (우 in Korean), 羽 (우 in Korean), or 武, (무 in Korean). Ulleungdo comprises two islands, which are collectively called as one island Usan (于山; 우산). Ulleungdo is located at due east of Uljin-hyun (藯珍縣), and is close to the island of Eungiju (隱岐州; 은기주; Oki island). ……
      In my considered opinion, the statement in Yeojiji (輿地志;여지지; note: Presently, no extant copy of this book is available) is correct, which states that “although some dumb people theorize that Ulleungdo and Usan are one island, consideration of many maps leads to the conclusion that there are two distinct islands. One is what the Japanese refer to as Songdo (松島; 송도; Matsushima in Japanese). These two islands belong to Usan-guk (于山國).”

      In this record, a direct cross-reference between the then Japanese name Songdo (松島; Matsushima) and the Korean name Usan (于山; 우산) is provided. The link between Usan and the then Japanese name for Dokdo of Songdo (松島; Matsushima) establishes the identity of Usan as Dokdo. Also, it is noteworthy that Oki island is described as a place close to Dokdo. To the Koreans at this time, the distance of 160 km between Dokdo and Oki islands was considered to be “close,” implying that the distance between Ulleungdo and Dokdo was probably considered even closer.

      6.2 Mangi Yoram, History of the East, and Revised Encyclopedia of Records

      Many other Korean history books support this view as well. The Korean history book Mangi Yoram (萬機要覽; 만기요람; meaning “Records of All Systems” and providing summary of financial and military systems of Korea at that time) of 1808 provides:

      輿地志云 鬱陵于山皆于山國地, 于山則倭所謂松島也”

      According to Yeojiji, Ulleung and Usan are the territory of Usan-guk. This Usan (于山) is also called Songdo (松島; 송도) by the Japanese.

      The Korean history book History of the East (海東繹史; 해동역사) of 1823, Geography section provides:

      文獻備考云 鬱陵于山皆于山國地 于山島卽倭所謂松島也

      “Encyclopedia of Records (文獻備考; 문헌비고) states that Ulleung and Usan are the territory of Usan-guk. This Usando (于山島) is also called Songdo (松島; 송도) by the Japanese.

      Notice that Usan and Usando are used interchangeable, and are equated with Songdo (松島; 송도), the Japanese name for Dokdo at that time.

      Revised Encyclopedia of Records (增補文獻備考; 증보문헌비고) duplicates the above record in Mangi Yoram verbatim. In addition, the characteristics of Usando further is elaborated by the following passage:

      于山島·鬱陵島在東三百五十里 鬱一作蔚 一作芋 一作羽 一作武 二島 一卽芋山 ‘續’今爲 鬱島郡

      “Usando (于山島; 우산도) : Located at 350 ri (140 km; 87 miles) east of Ulleungdo (鬱陵島; 울릉도). The character for Ul () may be (울 in Korean), (우 in Korean), (우 in Korean), or , (무 in Korean). The two island constitute one Usan (芋山; 우산) [ another translation: “The two islands are collectively called ‘Usan.'”] Presently, Usan now constitutes Uldo-gun.”

      Despite an overestimation of distance from Ulleungdo (record of 140 km versus a true distance of 87.4 km) and an arguably mistaken direction (eastern direction as opposed southeastern direction), this record provides an updated information on the previously known Usan as the collective reference to Ulleungdo and Dokdo with improved information available at that time. While a copy of Yeojiji is not available today, the Korean references assert that Usan has a dual meaning, one as a collective noun for Ulleungdo and Dokdo, and another one as a noun referring only to Dokdo when used in combination with Ulleungdo. For further reference, please refer to:

      The correlation between the old Korean name Usando and the Japanese name of Sondgo is also found in another passage of Mangi Yoram of 1808 that describes a second encounter of Yong-bok Ahn (Ahn is his family name and Yong-bok is his given name) with the Japanese fishermen in 1696. The relevant passage states:
      龍福獨前憤罵曰 何故犯我境 倭對曰 本向松島 固當去也 龍福追至松島 又罵曰 松島卽芋山島 爾不聞芋山亦我境乎 麾杖碎其釜 倭大驚走 龍福轉至伯耆州言其狀 太守悉捕治之

      Yong-bok stood up and scolded them (the Japanese) and said “Why are you trespassing our land?” The Japanese replied “We were planning to go to Songdo (松島; Matsushima, referring to Dokdo) and will go that way.” Yong-bok followed them to Songdo and scolded them again. “Songdo is Usando. Have you not heard that Usando is our land?” And he used a big stick to destroy their large cooking pot. The Japanese were scared and ran away. Yong-bok went to Baekgi-Ju (伯耆州, referring to Shimane Prefecture) and told the story (to the government officials of that place). The governor punished them (the Japanese sailors).”
      Photo to the left: a page from Mangi Yoram corresponding to the text cited above.

      An example of exercise of dominion based on visibility from Ulleungdo and continued use of Dokdo is best illustrated in the Ahn Yong-bok incident. While the details of this incident is different between the Korean version and the Japanese version, one thing is clear. Yong-bok Ahn was a local man of Ulleungdo that exercised the property rights of Korea against the Japanese fishermen in 1693 and 1696, pretty much the same way that a homeowner expels an intruder from his home. The main focus is that Ahn exercised property rights over two islands, Ulleungdo and Dokdo, which is substantiated by both versions of the story. Subsequently, inspectors were dispatched every three years by the Korean government to Ulleungdo and Gajido (Dokdo) after the action of Yong-bok Ahn to insure that no Japanese activity was carried out there according to the Annals of King Jeongjo (1776-1800). Once again, two islands are mentioned. While some argue that Gajido is another island, there are only two islands of any significance in this area, Ulleungdo and Dokdo, and they are visible from each other (only) on a clear day. Arguments that a rock in the vicinity of Ulleungdo is identified as another island typically turn a blind eye on the statement in “Sejoing Shillok Jiriji” (Annals of King Sejong, Geography section) that the two islands are visible from each other on a clear day. The two islands must be located far away to make this happen, and only one pair of islands satisfy this condition.

      Photo to the left: A copy of the 1697 letter from the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan to the government of Chosun. The letter states that a ban on Japanese fishing operation has been placed on Ulleungdo. While Dokdo is not specifically mentioned in this letter, it was understood that Dokdo was part of Ulleungdo and that the word “竹島” (Takeshima) refers to Ulleungdo and other islands that belong to Ulleungdo, as confirmed by clarification of the Japanese government later. An example is the statements made at the trial and execution of Aizuya Hachiemon (discussed below).

      As a result of the Ahn Yong-bok incident, the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan placed a ban on travel to Ulleungdo or Dokdo by any Japanese sailors as of January 28, 1696. Yong-bok Ahn paid a personal price for this incident. While all he said about Ulleungdo and Dokdo was true, he was not a diplomat authorized to speak with foreign officials, i.e., he was not a representative of the Korean government. He was sentenced to death for impersonating a governmental official. Realizing that Yong-bok Ahn had made a valuable contribution to the border security by successfully obtaining a commitment from the Japanese government, however, King Sukjong of Chosun (Korea) commuted his sentence to an exile to a remote place. In 1967, a monument (named “monument of the spirit of fealty”) was erected in Busan, Korea in honor of Yong-bok Ahn’s patriotic achievements. For further details of the daring acts of Yong-bok Ahn, see (in Korean). On the other side of the East Sea, dozens of Japanese fishermen were executed for trespassing into the forbidden Korean islands until the mid-18th century.
      In later maps, the term Usan was associated with Dokdo, and the term Ulleungdo seems to have been associated with present day Ulleungdo, although some cartographers seem to have made the mistake of erroneously associating Jukdo, an island that is located close to Ulleungdo and visible almost all the time. However, only Dokdo fits the description of an island that may be seen only on a “clear day.” Due to the sheer number of available Korean (and Japanese) maps that identify Dokdo as Korean territory, only two examples are provide here. See the references below for more maps.

      7.1 Carte de la Coree of 1846 by Dae-Geun Kim
      Photos to the left: “Carte de la Coree,” a map of Korea completed in 1846 by Dae-Geun Kim, the first Catholic priest of Korea, made way to Europe, and became the prototype map of many subsequent European maps. The original map was written in French, in which Ulleungdo was listed as “Oulangto” and Dokdo was listed as “Ousan,” a French transliteration of Usan (우산, 芋山). The two islands were collectively identified as ‘Is. Dagelet,” reflecting the recognition of Dokdo as a sister island of Ulleungdo. The map also shows that Koreans knew about Dokdo, and that the name “Usan” was still used to mean Dokdo at this time.

      7.2 Daedong Yeojido of 1861 by Jeong-ho Kim
      Photo to the left: A copy of a high resolution map of Korea, the Daedong Yeojido, (대동여지도, 大東輿地圖), published in 1861 by Jeong-ho Kim (김정호) and recently discovered in Japan, schematically shows Dokdo. In this 1:160,000 scale map, showing Dokdo in proportion to the scale would have required additional wood panels. 

      This map required 126 original wood panels that produced facsimile-copies of the original on paper and put together to form a 6.85 m x 3.60 m (22.5′ x 11.8′) map. Before discovery of this copy in Japan, prior copies of Daedong Yeojido used to be cited as “proof” that Koreans did not know of Dokdo. However, the widely distributed copy of Daedong Yeojido is actually a 1932 version, which was propagated during the Japanese occupation with the stamps of Choson-Governor Office on it. Because of this, the authenticity of the 1932 version is disputed concerning Gando (alleged Korean territory in present day China; Japan handed over this region to China by a treaty during occupation of Korea), Baekdusan (白頭山; 백두산; a volcanic mountain in at the border between Korea and China, other English transliterations include “Paikdusan” and “Baitoushan”), and Dokdo. The copy presented here is a copy found in National Assembly Library of Japan in October of 1997.
      In the copy of the the Daedong Yeojido above, the presence of another island “Usan” (Dokdo’s old name) is emphasized by drawing it close to Ulleungdo. Also, notice that the nearby island “Jukdo” is not given much attention than Dokdo that is located far away from Ulleungdo. The perception of “two islands” to Koreans meant that one was Ulleungdo, and the other was Dokdo. Other little islands and rocks near Ulleungdo did not count much since they naturally belonged to, and were parts of, Ulleungdo anyway. Dokdo was far away and required special attention. Naturally, Dokdo was always counted as another island, different from Ulleungdo. This fact needs to be considered when official documents are interpreted such as the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 of Gojong in 1900. For a detailed explanation of the map above, see the following link: For rebuttals of theories that the island typically recognized as Dokdo in old maps somehow represents another island, see (Unfortunately, this site is written in Korean, making it difficult to read for those not proficient in Korean.) The contents of such theories are omitted here because these theories seems to be amorphous and continually changing, suggesting the groundless nature of such theories.

      7.3 General Lack of accuracy in old maps

      Ulleungdo and Dokdo made before modern methods of triangulation became available show some distortion of distance in the feature of Ulleungdo and gross accuracy in the distance between Ulleungdo and Dokdo. In fact, it is quite likely that these maps were drawn by someone who had never been to Ulleungdo, let alone to Dokdo. To draw a map of Korea only after visiting all islands of Korea would have been an impossible task then (and might be virtually impossible even now given that there are thousands of islands in Korea). Such distortion of features is apparent even in the Daedong Yeojido by Jeong-ho Kim although it is quite likely that he visited Ulleungdo himself. Please note the spurious islands around the map of Ulleungdo and the general shape of Ulleungdo in the Daedong Yeojido. Then, take a look at a picture below, which is an image of Ulleungdo as obtained from Google EarthTM.

      Photo to the left: Image of Ulleungdo from Google EarthTM.

      Once the white clouds are ignored, what should be immediately obvious is that there are no conspicuous islands around Ulleungdo except for possible exception of one (called Jukdo) to the east. Most of the islands described in the Daedong Yeojido are not discernible in the Google EarthTM image. One might also say that the real Ulleungdo is not round as described in the Daedong Yeojido, which is supposed to be the most accurate map of Korea before modern times.
      The reason this apparently obvious feature is discussed here is that some proponents of Japanese claim to Dokdo assert that “Usan” means Jukdo based on some other Korean maps in which the label “Usan” is assigned to one of peripheral islands around Ulleungdo that roughly correspond to the location of Jukdo. Examples of such maps can be seen at and at The argument goes on something like this: “Dokdo is located some 92 km away from Ulleungdo. The island labeled “Usan” is located close to Ulleungdo in the same map. Therefore, the island labeled “Usan” must mean Jukdo that is located physically close to Ulleungdo.” But these maps are highly schematic and many of them show phantom islands that do not even exist. Typically, the size of Ulleungdo itself is unrealistically large and the distance from the Korean peninsula to Ulleungdo is also too small. In some cases, the distance between the Korean peninsula and Ulleungdo is almost the same as the diameter of Ulleungdo. Also, representing Dokdo anywhere near the true location would have required many empty tiles between Ulleungdo and Dokdo. Under such circumstances, it is unrealistic to expect that proximity in a schematic map correspond to physical proximity in reality. Also, any reasonable mapmaker would not introduce many empty tiles just to emphasize the true distance between Ulleungdo and Dokdo. The argument that such maps should be interpreted as accurate maps complete ignores that the proportionality of Ulleungdo is grossly distorted in these maps, and that the purpose of the maps for showing “Usan” was to clarify that there was an island called “Usan” somewhere to the east of Ulleungdo.
      Where the overall quality and accuracy of the maps are not reliable, a reasonable interpretation of the maps require that the labels be given more significance than the geometric distances or accuracy of orientation. Further, the assertion that “Usan” meant Jukdo is conclusively disproved by the Daedong Yeojido (See above), which shows that Jukdo and Usan are separate islands. In addition, one needs to remember that “Usan” must be visible “(only) on a clear day,” as recited in Samguk Sagi, and that Jukdo can be seen even in a cloudy or rainy day because Jukdo is so close to Ulleungdo.
      8.1 Execution of Aizuya Hachiemon (1836): Ban on Travel to Ulleungdo or Dokdo clarified

      Since the Ahn Yong-bok incident (See above, Chapter VII. History of Dokdo, 6.3. The Ahn Yong-bok incident ), the Japanese government placed a ban on seafaring into foreign countries. The ban on seafaring into foreign countries was absolute and the accompanying punishment was severe. Ulleungdo and Dokdo were among the forbidden foreign territories.
      Photo to the left: A document generated by a local official of Oki island in Japan in 1696 (immediately after the Ahn Yong-bok incident). This document lists 8 provinces of Chosun (Korea). Most likely, this information was directly obtained from the party of Yong-bok Ahn. The document reads, from top right to bottom left, “8 Provinces of Chosun: Gyeonggi Province, Gangweon Province – within this Province exists Takeshima and Matsushima, Jeonla Province, Chungcheong Province, Pyeong-An Province, Hamgyeong Province, Hwanghae Province, Gyeongsang Province.” Here, “Takeshima” refers to Ulleungdo and “Matsushima” refers to Dokdo. Apparently, the Ahn Yong-bok incident triggered the special references to Ulleungdo and Dokdo in this 1696 document .
      Later on, a young venturous Japanese man named Aizuya Hachiemon (會津屋八右衛門 or 会津屋八右衛門; あいずやはちえもん, 1978 – 1836) illegally operated a cargo vessel from Hamada, Iwami (present day Hamada in Shamane prefecture) to Ulleungdo. His success was short-lived, however. He was caught, tried, and executed for the crime of illegally trespassing into a foreign country in 1836.
      After the trial of Aizuya Hachiemon, the Japanese government made it clear that Dokdo, as well as Ulleungdo, is included in the ban on seafaring. Early in 1837, the Shogunate issued the following edict with an accompanying map (which was drawn by Aizuya Hachiemon himself).

      Photo above left: text of an edict from the Shogunate after the Aizuya Hachiemon case.
      Photo above right: Aizuya Hachiemon’s map that accompanied the Shogunate edict.

      Translation of the edict:

      We have reviewed the recent case of Azuya Hachiemon’s illegal trespassing into Takehima (Ulleungdo). He was known to be in the fuedal domain of Matsudaira Yasuto, in Hamada, but did not have any permanent residence. All the others involved were severely punished along with Azuya Hachiemon. As to the island on the right, people from Yonago City used to voyage there but it has been banned since the Genroku Era, during which it was ceded to the Chosun government.

      Voyaging to foreign lands is strictly forbidden. From now on, the island on the right is prohibited as well. Although it has been declared before that voyaging ships are not to come in contact with foreign vessels, once again, from this time forward sailing far out to sea must be avoided.

      This message must be written on a board and be displayed to inform our people everywhere.

      The “island on the right (of Ulleungdo)” means Dokdo, known as Matsushima to the people of Japan at that time. The fact that voyage to Ulleungdo (Takeshima) was forbidden was already well known and need not be reiterated. If anyone was confused about whether travel to Dokdo was also forbidden, the Shogugate want to clarify that travel to Dokdo was indeed forbidden. For further details of this case, see

      To sure that everyone understood the ban on travel to Ulleungdo OR Dokdo, Matsudaira Hamada (松平浜田), who was the ruler of Shimane prefecture, issued a 4-page document titled “Ohesoozebonzangu (御解書御諸本帳; オヘソオゼボンザング) in 1838. The document captures the contents of the ruling of the Shogunate regarding the Aizuya Hachiemon case, i.e., that travel to Ulleungdo or Dokdo is forbidden and is punishable by capital punishment. All villages leaders had to read this document and put their signature on the last page of the document in acknowledgment.

      Photo to the left: First page of the public notice banning entry to Ulleungdo and Dokdo that was issued pursuant to disposition of Aizuya Hachiemon case.

      Photo to the left: Last page of the public notice banning entry to Ulleungdo and Dokdo that was issued pursuant to disposition of Aizuya Hachiemon case. Seals of the village leaders are seen with their names.

      Some proponents of Japanese claim over Dokdo claim that Aizuya Hachiemon case shows that Dokdo was recognized as Japanese territory. This assertion is based on Aizuya Hachiemon’s testimony during trial. After his proposal for travel to Ulleungdo to a financial officer, Murai Ogiemon (贳讦钼橛踅锾), of Hamada Domain was turned down for concern over illegality, he thought of using the pretense of going to Dokdo to get to Ulleungdo. The theory is based on the assumption that if Aizuya Hachiemon proposed going to Dokdo after his proposal to go to Ulleungdo was turned down, going to Dokdo was not an offense or a lesser offense. This argument seems to focus on a single statement and make unwarranted conclusions despite the prevalence of evidences pointing to the contrary. Aizuya Hachiemon’s own map shows Dokdo in the same color as the rest of the Korean territory, i.e., in red, while all Japanese territory is shown in white. Further, irrespective of what Aizuya Hachiemon believed, the Shogunate clarified prohibition to Ulleungdo and Dokdo, and in fact, went through the extra trouble of obtaining signatures of village leaders to insure that they understood the ban. Aizuya Hachiemon’s execution was a display of the will of the Shogunate, i.e, their way of demonstrating “When we say a ‘ban,’ we mean what we say.”
      Aizuya Hachiemon succeeded in persuading his superiors in Hamada to overlook his illegal seafaring activity, through which he significantly helped the financial position of Hamada Domain. In the end, however, he was caught and executed. The fact that he engaged in the illegal activity for public good was not a sufficient defense at trial. There seems to be sympathy for Aizuya Hachiemon because his illegal seafaring was for public good. After his death, a monument was built in his memory by the local people. See for details on his memorial. Despite the sympathy toward Aizuya Hachiemon, however, the ruling of the Shogunate still stands, i.e., at that time, seafaring to a foreign country was forbidden in Japan and Dokdo was included among the forbidden foreign territories.

      8.2 1877 Daijokan order (太政官指令) : “The islands in question … are known to have nothing to do with out country.”

      A conclusive evidence comes from an 1877 Daijokan order (太政官指令), i.e., an order issued by Daijokan (太政官), the supreme governmental authority of Japan at that time. This document states that Ulleungdo and Dokdo have nothing to do with Japan, i.e., Dokdo is a Korean territory. This document is also referred to as a 1877 Kobunruko (公文録) document (which means an “official document.”).

      Photo to the left: the 1877 Daijokan document. Two islands including Ulleungdo and Dokdo are referenced in this document. The original text and the translation are provided below.

      The first part of the text of this document shown in the photo above states:


      大臣 ○ 本局 ○ ○

      參議 ○

      卿輔 ○

      右ハ元祿五年朝鮮人入嶋以來舊政府該國ト往復之末遂ニ本邦關係無之相聞候段申立候上ハ伺之趣御聞置左之通御指令相成可然哉 此段相伺候也



      March 20, the 10th year of Meiji (1877)
      Minister (Seal affixed), Bureau (Seal affixed),
      Assistant (Seal Affixed),
      Kyousuki (an official position)
      Attachment: the case of the compiled cadaster about Takeshima and another island in the Sea of Japan from the Ministry of the interior
      After the Koreans came to the island (Oki island) on the 5th year (1693) of Genroku (元禄; referring to the Japanese emperor at that time), we have exchanged envoys between the old government (of Japan) and the concerned government (of Chosun, i.e., Korea). As a consequence, we have heard the opinion that these (two islands) do not have anything to do with our country. We are asking whether it is proper to issue the following order:
      Proposed order:
      Concerning the inquiry about Takeshima and another island, Make sure that you fully understand (心得) that they have nothing to do with our country.

      The proposed order was approved by Daijokan (太政官) and the order was issued as proposed. See the photo below that shows the request as submitted on March 17 by Vice Minister of Home Affairs, Meijima Hisoka, and as approved on March 29, by Udaijin (右大臣), Iwakura Tomomi.  (Note: Udaijin is the third highest official of Daijokan, the highest being Daijō daijin (太政大臣), and the second highest being Sadaijin (左大臣).)

      Photo above: The 1877 Daijokan document. 
      “About the inquiry regarding the compilation of the cadastre for Takeshima and another island in the Sea of Japan:

      Shimane Prefecture sent us an inquiry for a judgment on the jurisdiction of Takeshima as per attachments and this ministry has examined the matter. Regarding the islands in question, they are known to have nothing to do with our country as per documents, prepared in the first month of the 9th year of Genroku (note:1696) after the entry of the Koreans into the island.  The examined documents include:
      1. the purport of the deliberation by the former government; 
      2. notification of the official interpreter translator; 
      3. the official letter from the country involved; and 
      4. our country’s reply and report. 
      In other words by the 12th year of Genroku, the exchange of instruments had been completed. However, the acquisition or derelection of a territory being of great importance, we request your instruction on this question with the papers attached hereto. 
      March 17th, 10th year of Meiji. 
      Acting for the Minister of Home Affairs, Okubo Toshimichi
      Vice Minister of Home Affairs, Meijima Hisoka:

      Udaijin Iwakura Tomomi:
      Concerning the inquiry about Takeshima and another island, Make sure that you fully understand (心得) that they have nothing to do with our country. 
      March 29th, 10th year of Meiji.”

      This Daijokan (太政官) order was provided as a response to a question from the Japanese Ministry of the Interior. The Japanese Ministry of the Interior had already concluded that Ulleungdo and Dokdo belong to Korea. Recognizing the international dimension of such conclusion, the Japanese Ministry of the Interior wanted to have the answer certified by Daijokan. Hence, the documents from the Japanese Ministry of the Interior were forwarded to Daijokan, which provided the answer discussed above. The original documents and a map sent from the Japanese Ministry of the Interior were attached to the back of the Daijokan order. The images for these documents may be seen at

      Additional text (not shown in the photo above) in one of the attached documents of the 1877 Dajoukan order includes:

      磯竹島一ニ竹島ト稱ス. 隱岐國ノ乾位一百二拾里許ニ在ス. 周回凡九十里許山峻嶮ニシテ平地少シ. 川三條アリ. 又瀑布アリ. 然レトモ深谷幽邃樹竹稠密其源ヲ知ル能ハス. 唯眼ニ觸レ其多キ者植物ニバ 五鬣松 紫木再檀 黃蘖 椿 樫 柊 桐 雁皮 栂 竹 マノ竹 胡蘿 蔔 蒜 款冬 蘘荷 獨活 百合 午房 茱萸 覆盆子 虎杖 アヲキハ, 動物ニハ 海鹿 貓 巤 山雀 鳩鵯 弱 鳧 鵜 燕 鷲 鵰 鴈 ナヂコ アナ鳥四十雀ノ類 其他辰砂岩綠靑アルヲ見ル. 魚貝ハ枚拳ニ暇アラス. 就中海鹿鮑ヲ物産ノ最トス. 鮑ヲ獲ルニタニ竹ヲ海ニ投シ朝ニコレヲ上レハ鮑枝葉ニ著クモノ夥シ其味絶倫ナリト. 又海鹿一頭能ク數斗ノ油ヲ得ヘシ. 次ニ一島アリ松島ト呼フ. 周回三十町許竹島ト同一線路ニ在リ. 隱岐ヲ距ル八拾里許 樹竹稀ナリ. 亦魚獸ヲ産ス.

      “Isotakeshima” (磯竹島; referring to Ulleungdo) has another name, Takeshima (竹島). It is northwest of Oki province (隱岐國) and the distance from Oki is 120 Ri (里). The circumference is 10 Ri (里). The mountains are steep and there are few plains. There are three streams and waterfalls. In the valley, there are trees and bamboos so thick that one cannot tell their full extent. Based on what can be seen, the plants species there include: goryoumatsu (五鬣松), murasaki kisaidan (紫木再檀), … (note: many more plant species are listed in the text.). There are so many kinds of fishes and shells that it is hard to list them all. Especially, sea lions (海鹿) and abalones (鮑) abound among these (fishes and abalones). To catch abalones, bamboo sticks are inserted into the sea in the evening and lifted up in the next morning. The abalones are known to taste great. Many pounds of oil (note: used for lighting oil) may be obtained from a sea lion. Next, there is “another island” called 松島 (Matsushima). The circumference is 30 Jung( 町). It is located on the same path (同一線路) as the path to Takeshima (竹島, i.e., Ulleungdo). The distance from Oki is 80 Ri(里). Trees and bamboos are rare (in Matsushima). (This island) also yields sea animals (魚獸).”

      This “another island” means Matsushima, the Japanese name for Dokdo that had been consistently used until 1905. The map attached to the 1877 Daijokan documents firmly established the identification of 松島 (Matsushima) with Dokdo. The two islands and rocks of Dokdo are drawn in detail in this map. Ulleungdo is marked with “磯竹島” and Dokdo is marked “松島.”

      Additional portions of the original text of the 1877 Daijokan order can be found in a separate knol titled Daijokan order (太政官指令) of 1877 regarding Dokdo.  For compilation of the images of the 1877 Daijokan order, please see  

      A map is also attached to the Daijokan order.  See below:
      Photo above: the map attached to the 1877 Daijokan Order. Ulleungdo (“磯竹島“) and Dokdo (“松島“) are shown with Oki island to the bottom right. The name and the features of Dokdo establish the identity. Three comments are visible on the map:



      隠岐島後福浦ヨリ松島ヲ距ル 乾位八十里許。

      “If one looks(遠望*) westward (酉戌) toward the Chosun country (mainland of Korea) from Isotakeshima, the distance (between Isotakeshima and the mainland of Korea) is about 50 ri** (里) in the sea.
      Isotakeshima is located to the northwest of Matsushima (Dokdo) at a distance of about 40 ri** (里).
      Matsushima is located to the northwest of Fukuura of Oki island at a distance of about 80 ri** (里).”

      (Note*: “遠望” means looking, not observing. Ulleungdo and the mainland of Korea cannot be observed from each other without the aid of modern telescopic lenses due to the large distance.
      Note**: ri** refers to a nautical mile (1.852 km). Using this unit of distance, the actual distances are 70.4 ri instead of 50 ri, 47.2 ri instead of 40 ri, and 85.0 ri instead of 80 ri, respectively.)

      This document including the attached map effectively puts an end to the second argument advanced by Japan by identifying Dokdo as Korean territory. See the contents in these link for details: (in Korean) and (in English).

      8. 3 Japanese maps

      Historical documents and maps from Japan also show that Dokdo was recognized as Korean territory until the beginning of the 20th century. All Japanese maps before the 18th century showing Dokdo connotes that Dokdo is a Korean territory either explicitly by color or accompanying comment or impliedly by placement in proximity to Ulleungdo. Most, if not all, colored Japanese maps of the 19th century show Dokdo in the same color as the Korean peninsula. The map above by Aizuya Hachiemon is a good example of this. 

      Photo above: a portion of a map by Hayashi Shihei (林子平; a Japanese scholar) published in 1785 as one of 5 attached maps in his book, Illustrated Treatise of Three Countries (三國通覽圖解).  The upper side corresponds to the east, and the left side corresponds to the north.  Japan is shown in the upper right portion of the map, and Korea is shown in the lower middle portion of the map.  Here, the three countries mean three neighboring countries of Japan, i.e., 

      1. Korea (then known as Chosun) shown in pink, 
      2. the country of Yezo (or Ezo ; 蝦夷國; refers to the portion of the Hokkaido island that was still inhabited by the Ainu people at that time, i.e., before Japan fully annexed Hokkaido through migration from Honshu) shown in red, and 
      3. the kingdom of Ryukyu (琉球國; a kingdom in present day Okinawa; the Kingdom of Ryukyu was annexed to Japan in 1879 and did not become independent after the defeat of Japan in 1945.).  
      The kingdom of Ryukyu is outside the area shown here (located to the lower right of the shown area).
      Ulleungdo and Dokdo are shown as two distinct islands having the same color as Korea.  The legend reads:


      Korean territory (Territory of Chosun)
      One can see the Oki island and Chosun from here.

      While the number of islands (two) is correct, Hayashi Shihei misunderstood the visibility of the Oki island and Chosun.  Ulleungdo and Dokdo are visible from each other.  One cannot see the Oki island from either Dokdo or Ulleungdo due to the curvature of the earth. One cannot see the mainland of Korea from Ulleungdo due to the atmospheric scattering with distance unless a high resolution telescope is employed, which became possible only in the 20th century.  
      The point here is that the map of Hayashi Shihei published in 1785 shows TWO Korean islands in the East Sea.

      When black and white maps explicitly display the territorial sovereignty of Dokdo in any 19th century Japanese map, Dokdo is always marked as a Korean territory. Japanese maps of Korea in the 19th century include Dokdo. See, for example, a 1875 Japanese army map of Korea ( and in a 1876 Japanese navy map ( In most, if not all, Japanese maps of Japan made in the 19th century do not show Dokdo altogether even when the area of the map includes the area of Dokdo.

      Photo to the left:
      “Copper print of the whole map of Chosun country” printed in 1882 in Japan. All territories of Japan are shaded, while Ulleungdo and Dokdo are not, showing the the islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo were considered to be Korean territory at this time. Again, two islands! Also notice the larger-than-life size of Dokdo. What was important in old maps, and in the thinking of the ancient and medieval people, was that an island was there, not the absolute size of it.

      Dokdo cannot be readily seen unless the weather is good. This has led to errors in some of Korean maps through cartographers who thought that a nearby island of Jukdo in the east was the same as Dokdo. The Japanese argument tends to employ a collection of such erroneous maps to show that Koreans did not know about Dokdo. This argument ignores that more maps list Dokdo correctly than the erroneous exceptions. For example, see the Daedong Yeojido described above. Apparently, there was also some confusion as to the exact location of Dokdo among some of the Korean governmental officers who did not visit Dokdo. One example is captured in dialogs between King Gojong and an officer named Gyu-Won Yi in Seungjeongwon-illgi (Daily Records of the Royal Secretariat; 7th day of the 4th lunar month and 5th day of the 6th lunar month in the 19th year of King Gojong’s reign) of 1882. After Korea opened ports to Japan, the Japanese illegally lumbered on Ulleungdo. As King Gojong dispatched Gyu-won Yi as an investigator to Ulleungdo, he said “This island is called Usando (우산도, 芋山島) and Sohgjukdo (송죽도, 松竹島) according to Donggukyeojiseungram. Some call it Songdo (송도, 松島) and Jukdo (죽도, 竹島). Along with Usando, these three islands are collectively called Ulleungdo (울릉도, 鬱陵島). You shall investigate the geography of these islands.” The King was overriding Gyu-won Yi’s answer that Usando is the same as Ulleungdo and therefore, there was nothing to investigate. Apparently, the King knew more about these islands than the officer he was about to dispatch. If a governmental officer had to be corrected by the King, one can be sure that a good many non-local governmental officers were confused about the these islands. However, it is clear that King Gojong knew about the three different islands because he specifically mentioned three islands.
      Nonetheless, Dokdo has been under Korean administration throughout this period. In the end, Clause 2 of Ordinance No. 41 issued on October 25, 1900 by Emperor Gojong of Korea specified Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Dokdo within the area of administration for Gangwondo, a province of Korea. The King counted three islands in 1982. After 18 years and, presumably, after collecting enough information on the three islands including Dokdo, the same King, now as an Emperor of Korean Empire, counted the same three islands again in 1900 in his Imperial Ordinance No. 41 as Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Seokdo. See the Korean argument section under Japan’s territorial Allegations below.

      1.1 Foreword

      Sovereignty over Dokdo is a sensitive issue for both Korea and Japan. One should be mindful of this when discussing this issue with a Korean or a Japanese. Some people who are not familiar with the history of Korea and Japan might be under the impression that this dispute is really about fishing rights. This is an erroneous perception to say the least. The dispute over Dokdo is more about interpretation of Japan’s imperial past including the occupation of Korea between 1905 and 1945. The dispute over Dokdo goes much beyond who gets to catch more fish, who gets to dig more minerals from the ocean floor, or even who gets the island itself.

      1.2 The Korean experience

      To the Koreans, Dokdo represents the first victim of Japanese territorial aggression on Korea, which was consummated by the outright annexation of Korean in 1910. Despite Japanese claims that the Japanese occupation helped modernization of Korea, most Koreans believe that the Korean would have made at least that much progress anyway. The Japanese annexation of Korea was not like the incorporation of Hawaii into the United States. To the Korean memory, the Japanese occupation was brutal and cruel. Koreans were deprived of their staple food as much of Korean rice was shipped to Japan. This caused Koreans to rely on inferior substitutes such as barley and corn. The Japanese deliberately kept Koreans undereducated to control them easily. On average, ten Korean children would have to compete for one opening in elementary schools. Dissidents were brutally tortured and murdered. Many of the victims by the notorious “Unit 731,” which was stationed in Manchuria and performed vivisection on over 10,000 human victims with unimaginable and indescribable cruelty, were Koreans. Toward the end of Japanese occupation, use of the Korean language was banned outright, which has few precedents. (Note: One similar case is found in Spain. The Basque people under Franco used to be fined for speaking the Basque language.) Further, Koreans were forced to abandon their Korean names and to accept Japanese names. Koreans were also forced to perform Shinto rituals at Japanese shrines set up across Korea. Many Koreans, especially Christians, chose to be imprisoned than performing any of the Shinto rituals. Lives of many Korean girls, later known as “comfort women,” were ruined when they were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers. Some of the girls, now elderly ladies, are alive even in the 21st century. Many Korean men were worked to death in Japanese coal mines. Other Korean men were forced to fight on the Japanese side in the Second World War although many of them would gladly have fought for the other side. Japan intended to eradicate all records of ancient Korean history, and propagated its own version of Korean history in order to justify their occupation by emphasizing incompetence and mistakes of Koreans in history. Saito Makoto (斋藤实, or 斎藤実), the third Viceroy of Chosun, who was in charge of administering Korea in 1919, summed up this Japanese policy in his “Guideline for Education”:

      First, we need to make the Korean people ignorant of their past achievements, history, and tradition. We will deprive them of their national spirit and their national culture. Dig out their ancestors’ inactions, incompetence, and vice. Amplify them! Teach them to their Chosun (Korean) descendants. We will invoke the emotions of despise and scorn among the youths of Chosun upon their fathers and ancestors. Make a trend of it! As a result, the youths of Chosun will acquire negative knowledge (view) about their historic figures and historical remains, and be filled with disappointment and nihilism. Then, we will introduce to them Japanese historical remains, Japanese historical figures, and Japanese culture. The effect of assimilation will be great. This is the key to turning the people of Chosun to half-Japanese.

      To aid this effort, all Korean history books were confiscated and burned. Between 1911 and 1912 alone, Japan confiscated 200,000 copies of 51 kinds of books about Dangun, the founder of an ancient Korean Kingdom Gojoseon (about 2,000 B.C – about 236 B.C.). A 1938 Japanese record shows that Japan confiscated countless copies of 4,950 kinds of Korean history books by 1937. The whole country became almost devoid of any history books of their own country except for the distorted version that the Japanese government propagated. To this day, the research on the ancient Korean history faces major obstacles due to the destruction of the history books during the Japanese occupation period. With the ban on the Korean language and without any available Korean history books, the Korean identity was subjected to a frontal assault, and the Korean race faced the prospect of obliteration from the face of the earth under the Japanese rule.
      Given this background, Japanese claim to Dokdo can be seen only as justification of all the Japanese atrocities and attempts at annihilating the Korean identity that the Japanese committed during their occupation period.

      1.3 The unsettled past

      While Japanese history textbooks elaborate on the Japanese casualties (between 170,000 to 260,000 people) from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same textbooks omit atrocities that Japan committed during the imperial expansion so that the Japanese public is unaware that other countries actually suffered. For example, the “Rape of Nanking(南京),” or the Nanking Massacre, in which between 150,000 and 300,000 Chinese civilians were massacred between December 1937 and February 1938, is glossed over or not mentioned in the Japanese textbooks. Along the same line, the sufferings of the Korean people during their occupation are not mentioned in Japanese textbooks. As for sexual enslavement of girls, Japan at first denied the existence of any such thing, then denied any governmental responsibility when its existence became known. In the end, without offering an official apology, the Japanese government turned silent on this subject when, on August 2, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 121, which demands that “the Government of Japan (1) should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as `comfort women’ …” For the majority of the Japanese public, the sufferings of the people in occupied territories, if they existed in any way, seem to be events of the past that matter little now. In this case, the oppressors seem to forgetting the oppression much faster then the oppressed, especially when their history textbooks are silent on past oppressions. This attitude seems to be in stark contrast with the attitude of the Germans. The Germans after the Second World War became concerned that the Germany might become a hated nation, prompting their leaders to offer public apologies to the victims of their aggression. Display of such concerns has been rare in Japan, explaining the lack of apologies by their leaders to neighboring countries for their atrocities during the imperial period. As far as memory of the Japanese actions during the occupation of Korea, one might say that the lack of repentance on the Japanese part made forgiveness on the Korean part very difficult.

      1.4 The Japanese viewpoint

      Apparently, the Japanese public does not seem to be nearly as much interested in Dokdo as the right wing Japanese politicians who see a great opportunity to promote nationalism through Dokdo. To the Japanese right wing, Dokdo represents justification of their colonial expansionism and return to a normal country that can exercise military power for national interest. Currently, Japan has three territorial disputes with neighboring countries. Japan will never get Sakhalin islands back by military means from nuclear-armed Russia. Japan may be forced to lose Senkaku (Diaoyutai) islands in the future if nuclear-armed China decides to use military force on these islands. However, Japan has the capability to take Dokdo from Korea through superior military power at sea and in the air. Korea’s economic dependence on Japan allows Japan to make claims on Dokdo with impunity without serious political or military retaliations. Claiming Dokdo as Korean territory is a patriotic activity for Japanese politicians in the same manner as honoring the fallen in the Second World War by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社). If almost all Japanese prime ministers visit the Yasukuni Shrine despite protests from China and Korea (that understand the meaning of these visits), it is no wonder that the same Japanese prime ministers also assert that Dokdo belongs to Japan. When challenged by western reporters, many Japanese politicians compare such activities with visits to Arlington National Cemetery by U.S. presidents, impliedly asserting the characters (convicted Second World War criminals) represented at Yasukuni Shrine should be honored. In this line of thinking, Dokdo was taken to prepare for the Russo-Japanese war because Dokdo did not belong to anyone (as far as the claims go). Such defensive measures were necessary for the survival of the Japanese nation. Claiming Dokdo is thus a justification that the activities of the 1905 era, which was unjustifiably branded as “imperial expansion” after the defeat in the Second World War. The Japanese people had the right to perform such activities for “survival” as a nation. Having Dokdo recognized as a Japanese territory would be a vindication for the “defensive measures” that Japan was forced to take at the beginning of the 20th century, proving that Japan was not that much wrong as later historians suggested. It was enough that Japan suffered from 1945 up to now through the imposed constitution that banned any offensive use of military force unlike normal nations. A nation cannot be diplomatically and militarily handicapped in perpetuity for transgressions at one point in history. As it is, Japan contributes to the United Nations heavily, has a population twice that of Britain or France, and has the potential to match Russia in military power. Is Japan doomed to remain a second rate world power because of the terms of the San Francisco Treaty (the Treaty of Peace with Japan) for ever? It is time to move on and re-arm Japan, especially considering the expanding power of China. To achieve this end, Dokdo dispute can be used as a call to arms for Japan as she removes the shackles imposed on her due to the “misfortune” of losing the Second World War.

      1.5 The metaphysical implications of the territorial claims

      If the dispute over Dokdo were unrelated to the Japanese imperial expansion, this issue would be a purely legal and economical issue. As it is, the dispute over Dokdo involves incidents at the very core of the Japanese imperial expansion, that is, the annexation of Dokdo and the subsequent annexation of Korea by Japan. Justification of Japanese claim to Dokdo is justification of the Japanese imperial expansion, which is viewed as an unjust and cruel aggression on Korea to the Korean people but as a defensive measure out of necessity under the circumstances for the Japanese right wing and to the section of the Japanese people who impliedly agree with the right wing by not protesting. The verdict on Dokdo has a meaning beyond the legal dimension. In terms of political importance, the question on the ownership of Dokdo is on par with the question on the justifiability of China’s annexation of Tibet in 1950. Thus, the verdict on Dokdo is also a moral judgment on the past actions of the imperial Japan and the character and the identity of the Japanese nation and the Korean nation.

      During the imperial expansion, Japan went into war with Russia on February 8, 1904, which culminated in battle of Tsushima on May 27-28, 1905, and ended with Russia’s practical capitulation on September 5, 1905. During the Russo-Japanese war, the Japanese Cabinet declared Dokdo to be an uninhabited island, and placed Dokdo under administration of Shimane Prefecture. The motive for this action is generally attributed to preparations for a pending naval battle in the Russo-Japanese war. See the following site for explanation of Japan’s motives: To win in the coming battle, Japan badly needed Dokdo, which was technically under Korean control. Japan needed a good way to get this island.
      While Japan was exercising a great deal of influence in Korea after having defeated China in the first Sino-Japanese War (1895 – 1895), this event occurred before the Eulsa Treaty, which was signed on November 17, 1905 and in effect turned Korea into a protectorate of Japan. Notifying Korea could spoil Japan’s plan to use Dokdo. Not surprisingly, the alleged annexation process of Dokdo was not highly publicized. This event was published only in a local gazette in Shimane Prefecture (See the picture below). The lack of notice later becomes very problematic to Japan’s claim on Dokdo based on the theory of terra nullius. Once Japan-Korean Annexation treaty was signed on August 22, 1910, Japan gained complete control over Korean territory including Dokdo. After the Eulsa Treaty of 1905, there was not much that the Korean Empire could do. Despite the grandiose name, the Korean Empire, proclaimed in 1897, was approaching its end. The Korean Empire would come to an end in 1910 when Japan forcibly annexed the Korean Empire. Realizing that the Korean people were facing a time of unprecedented national hardship and a looming crisis in national identity, the last major publication efforts of the Korean Empire was directed to preserving historic records. This effort resulted in Revised Encyclopedia of Records (증보문헌비고; 增補文獻備考), in which Gojong made sure that records on Ulleungdo and Dokdo were included. These records would remain dormant for the next 37 years throughout the period of Japanese occupation of Korea. Some of these documents may be found at this link:

      3.1 Initial phase: Dokdo was recognized as Korean territory upon founding of Republic of Korea in 1948.

      While a great deal of emphasis is placed on what happened after the Second World War, in the big scheme of things, these events do not matter anyway. While Japan alleges that Dokdo was never given back to Korea, this argument is valid only if Dokdo belonged to Japan to begin with. So, the central question is whether Dokdo belonged to Japan in a legitimate way before the Annexation of Korea, and what happened after the Second World War in any peace treaty is relevant only if Japan had anything to keep to begin with. With that in mind, the events after the Second World War are examined here.
      After Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945 and allied forces took over Japanese territory, Dokdo was classified as Korean territory, as evidenced in MacArthur line drawn in 1946. Specifically, an instruction of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) to the government of Japan dated September 27, 1945 stated that the Japanese should not be allowed to approach within 12 miles of Dokdo. A Supreme Command Allied Power Instruction dated January 29, 1946 and titled “Governmental and Administrative Separation of Certain Outlying Areas from Japan” (SCAPIN 677) defined the territorial boundaries of Japan, or so called “MacArthur Line.” Clause 2 of SCAPIN 677 explicitly excluded Dokdo, which was referenced as “Liancourt Rocks (Take Island)”, from jurisdiction of imperial Japanese government. See the copies of SCAPIN 677 here: SCAPIN 677 includes clause 6, which states that “nothing in this directive shall be construed as an indication of Allied policy relating to the ultimate determination of the minor islands referred to in article 8 of the Potsdam declaration.”  However, this statement validates the effectiveness of Potsdam Declaration of July 26. Article 8 of Potsdam Declaration states “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the Islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands we determine.” The bottom line of the Allied Powers was that whatever they decided will be Japan’s territories other than the four main islands of Japan.

      Photo above: a map attached to SCAPIN 677 of January 29, 1946.  Dokdo, marked as “TAKE” is removed from the Japanese territory.  There is not a single map subsequently made by the Allied Powers that treated Dokdo as a Japanese territory.  Although Japan acquired additional islands from the Allied Powers through territorial transfers, Dokdo could not be transferred to Japan because it was already transferred to Korea on August 15, 1948.

      Dokdo was then placed Dokdo within the Korea-based U.S. XXIV Corps´s area of responsibility. Thereafter throughout the occupation of Japan by the Allied Powers, Dokdo was excluded from the administration of the Supreme Command Allied Power. Bombing practices on Dokdo by the Allied forces was stopped before founding of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. (See reference #1 below for details of the bombing of Dokdo for military purposes). The U.S. XXIV Corps transferred the entire territory within its control to the newly born government of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) at the founding of the Republic of Korea. In other words, all territory under the control of the U.S. XXIV Corps was transferred to the Republic of Korea, including Dokdo on August 15, 1945.
      At that time, there was no protest on the transfer of Dokdo to the Republic of Korea either by any of the Applied Powers or by Japan. Thus, sovereignty of the Republic of Korea over Dokdo was established without any challenge on August 15, 1945. Further, no complaint over the Korean sovereignty over Dokdo was raised up to the beginning of the Korean war, which was triggered by the invasion of North Korean forces into South Korea on June 25, 1050. Thus, Dokdo’s incorporation into Korea was accepted as a fait accompli by the beginning of the Korean war, and Dokdo was within the area of Korean Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ), and was defended by the Allied forces as such.
      In March 1951, the British Foreign Office Research Bureau prepared the only map that was used during the process of the Peace Treaty with Japan. This map was included the final (3rd) British draft that was forwarded to the U.S.A. counterparts.
      Photo above: The only map used during the negotiation process of the San Francisco Treaty. Dokdo is excluded from the Japanese territory.

      3.2 Initial U.S. drafts of the Peace Treaty with Japan includes Dokdo in Korean territory

      A logical extension of this would be outright recognition of Dokdo as Korean territory. However, Dokdo was left out in the passages of the “Treaty of Peace with Japan,” or the “Treaty of San Francisco” that was signed between Japan and 48 nations of Allied powers on September 8, 1951, and came into effect on April 28, 1952. This treaty determined territorial limits of Japan. The relevant part of this treaty states “Japan recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all right, title and claim to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet.”
      Quelpart refers to Jeju island (제주도) and Port Hamilton refers to Geomundo (거문도). According to Japanese interpretation, Dagelet refers to Ulleungdo (울릉도) only, the mother island of Dokdo. Note, however, that Dagelet does not necessarily mean only Ulleungdo by historic standards. For example, the “Carte de la Coree” of 1946 by Dae-Geun Kim, which became the basis of later European maps, used Dagelet to include the islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo as an island group.

      At any rate, Dokdo was not specified as Japanese territory. At the same time, Dokdo was not specifically excluded from Japanese territory. Why was Dokdo not specifically listed in this paragraph to quell all future doubts? Investigation shows that “Agreement Respecting the Disposition of Former Japanese Territories” prepared by the Allied Powers over the period of 1947 – 1950 specifically included Dokdo. This document was an agreement among the countires of the Allied Powers that participated in the negotion process for the Treaty of Peace with Japan, which includes the 48 signatories of the Treaty excluding Japan and the Soviet Union and other east European countires that subsequently refused to sign the Treaty. The text of the “Agreement Respecting the Disposition of Former Japanese Territories” stated “… there shall be transferred to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) all rights and titles to … Liancourt Rocks (Takeshima) …” In effect, the document shows that the 48 countries and the Soviet union agreed that Dokdo should be returned to Korea. See below:
      Photo above: a draft version of the Treaty of Peace with Japan
      The full text of the document reads:
      “SECRET:Agreement Respecting The Disposition of Former Japanese Territories
      The Allied and Associated Powers party to the treaty of peace concluded with Japan on,1950,dispose of the territories renounced by Japan in that Treaty in the following manner :
      Article 1

      The Allied and Associated Powers agree that the following territories shall be returned in fulls over eignty to China: The island of Taiwan (Formosa) and adjacent minor islands, including Agincourt (Hoka Sho), Crag(Menka Sho), Pinnacle (Kahei Sho), Sanasana (Kasho To), Botel Tabago (Koto Sho), Little Botel Tabago(Shokoto Sho), Vele Reti Rocks (Shichisei seki), and Lambay (Ryukyu Sho); together with the Pescadores Islands (Hoko Shoto); and all other isl ands to which Japan had acquired title within a line beginning at a point in 26 ° N. latitude,121 °E. longitude, and proceeding and east to 122 °30 ′E.longitude; Thence due south to 21 °30 ′ N.latitude; thence due west through the Bashi Channel to 119 °E.longitude; thence due north to a point in 24 °N.latitude; thence northeasterly to the point of beginning.
      This line in indicated on the map attached to the present Agreement.
      Article 2

      The Allied and Associated Powers agree that the island of Sakhalin(Karafuto) south of 50 °N.latitude, and adjacent islands,including Totamoshiri(KaibaTo, or Moneron), and Robbon Island (Tyuleniy Ostrov, or KaihyoTo)shall be transferred to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in full sovereignty.
      Article 3

      The Allied and Associated Powers agree that there shall be transferred in full sovereignty to the Republic of Korea all rights and titles to the Korean Mainland Territory and all offshore Korean islands, including Quelpart (Saishu To), the Nanhow group (San To, or Komun Do) which forms port Hamilton (Tonaikai), Dagelet Island (UtsuryoTo, or MatsuShima), Liancourt Rocks (Takeshima), and all of her islands and islets to which Japan had acquired title lying outside … and to the meridian 124 °15 ′ E.longitude,north of the parallel 33 °N.lati tude,and west of a line from the seaward terminus of the boundary approximately three nautical miles from the mouth of the Tumen River to a point in 37 °30 ′N. latitude,132 °40 ′E. longitude.
      This line is indicated on the map attached to the present Agreement.
      Article 4

      The Allied and Associated Powers undertake to support an application by the United States for the placing of the Bonin Islands (Ogasawara Gunto)including Rosario Island(Nishino Shima),the Volcano Islands(Kazan Retto), Parece Veln (Douglas Reef ), and Marcus Island (Minamitori Shima) under Trusteeship in accordance with Articles 77,79 and83 of the Charter of the Uni ted Nations, the trusteeship agreement to designate the islands as a strategic area and to provide that the United States shall be the administering authority.

      Article 5
      The Allied and Associated Powers undertake to support and appli cation of the United States for the placing of the Ryukyu Islands south of 29 °N.latitude under trusteeship in accordance with Article 77,79 and 85 of the Charter of the United Nations,the trusteeship agreement to provide that the United States is to be administering authority.
      Done at the city of _________ in the English language, this ____ day of ______, 1950.”
      Examination of records show that Dokdo was explicitly recited in the first U.S. draft version of March 20, 1947, the second U.S. draft version of August 5, 1947, the third U.S. draft version of June 2, 1948, the fourth U.S. draft version of October 13, 1949, and the fifth U.S. draft version of November 2, 1949.

      3.3 Japanese lobbying causes later U.S. drafts to omit Dokdo in the clauses

      Then why was Dokdo not explicitly recited in the Treaty of Peace with Japan? During this time, Japan gets a chance to look at the drafts. On November 14, 1949, WIlliam Sebald, a political advisor in Japan, states “…Japan’s claim to this island is old and appears valid… Security considerations might conceivably envisage weather and radar stations thereon…” Under Sebald’s influence, the 6th draft of December 29, 1949 included the following language:
      “Article 3
      1. the territory of Japan shall comprise the four principal Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaide and all adjacent minor islands, including the islands of the Inland Sea(Seto Naikai) ; Tsushima, Takeshima(Liancourt Rocks), Oki Retto, Sado, Okujiri, Rebun, Riishiri and all other islands in the Japan Sea(Nippon Kai) within a line connecting the farther shores of Tsushima, Takeshima and Rebun….”
      This version of the draft was immediately objected to by other countries of the Allied poweres including Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, which contended that transferring territory for the benefit of any one country sows the seed of territorial disputes, and would set a bad precedent.  Particularly, Britain submitted a corrected draft three times and strongly protest to this version of the U.S. draft.  Britain also presented a map that clearly identified Dokdo as Korean territory.  Other experts in the U.S. objected to this version of the draft citing that a Korean territory should be returned to Korea.   
      The international embarrassment caused by the sixth U.S. draft version apparently made the U.S. drafters rethink about the references to Dokdo.  The seventh U.S. draft version of August 9, 1950, the eighth U.S. draft version of September 14, 1950, and the ninth U.S. draft version of March 23, 1951 omitted Dokdo altogether to avoid the issue. The only official British version of the draft, presented in March, 1951, specified Dokdo among the territories to be returned to Korea. The U.S. seems to have been the only party among the Allied Powers that leaned toward not returning Dokdo to Korea and the rest of the Allied Powers wanted to have Dokdo included among the territories to be returned to Korea. When South Korea protested the omission of Dokdo from the draft when she became aware of the situation. Since South Korea was not invited to the Treaty, the only thing South Korea could do was to protest through the countries of the Allied Powers, notably the United States, which was the major fighting force in the Korean war at that time.
      In the end, the Treaty of Peace with Japan was concluded on September 8, 1951. The territory section of the text of the Treaty of Peace with Japan in 1951 is much shorter than the initial drafts. Here is the full text of the territory section of the Treaty of Peace with Japan:
      Article 2
      (a) Japan recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all right, title and claim to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet.
      (b) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores.
      (c) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Kurile Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it over which Japan acquired sovereignty as a consequence of the Treaty of Portsmouth of 5 September 1905.
      (d) Japan renounces all right, title and claim in connection with the League of Nations Mandate System, and accepts the action of the United Nations Security Council of 2 April 1947, extending the trusteeship system to the Pacific Islands formerly under mandate to Japan.
      (e) Japan renounces all claim to any right or title to or interest in connection with any part of the Antarctic area, whether deriving from the activities of Japanese nationals or otherwise.
      (f) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.”
      3.4 The ulterior motive of the U.S.

      Then, why was Dokdo omitteded here despite the explict mention in the predecessor document, “Agreement Respecting the Disposition of Former Japanese Territories?” While the cause seems to be a combination of factors. South Korea was excluded from this Treaty from the beginning along with North Korea, Peoples Republic of China (PRC; communist China), and Republic of China (Taiwan). Thus, South Korea did not have much say about this, and is not a signatory to this Treaty. No doubt there was heavy Japanese hand on this issue. But was there any reason for the U.S. to buy into the Japanese argument (a flimsy one at best) despite other Allied countries’ protest? What interest would the the U.S. have in deleting Dokdo from the clauses of the Treaty, with full knowledge that a possible future territorial disputes with Korea may lie ahead over other Allied countries’ objections?
      In fact, the U.S. even alleged that Korea does not have a claim to Dokdo. On August 9, 1951, about one month before signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk wrote a letter to the Korean Ambassador, which included, in part:

      As regards the island of Dokdo, otherwise known as Takeshima or Liancourt Rocks, this normally uninhabited rock formation was according to our information never treated as part of Korea and, since about 1905, has been under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch of Shimane Prefecture of Japan. The island does not appear ever before to have been claimed by Korea….”
      Was Dean Rusk reciting the information he had, or was he making up excuses?

      A recently declassified U.S. document shows that the contents in Rusk’s letter were just excuses for a clandestine purpose. (See below) While the U.S. concluded that Dokdo was “at one time part of the Kingdom of Korea,” the U.S. may have had other purposes in mind for Dokdo, such as a military utility that may be operated jointly with Japan according to this document. Dean Rusk was known for his military background and is known for his hawkish policy as Secretary of State. He advocated use of military power to combat communism. It is a safe bet that the letter by Rusk seems to have been influenced by military considerations, and the contents in the letter are contrary to what the U.S. knew. By omitting Dokdo from the Treaty, did the U.S. get any use out of Dokdo? Of course, the plan to use Dokdo for military purposes was never implemented since no U.S. military facility was ever installed on Dokdo. However, this ill-conceived plan under Japanese influence turned out to be a source of later Japanese ambition to claim this island and future conflicts between Japan and Korea.

      As for the rest of the Allied Powers, they had no such plan for use of Dokdo. In fact, the only British draft specified Dokdo among the territories to be returned to Korea. When the Allied Powers saw the sixth draft, their immediate objection resulted in deletion of Dokdo from the draft despite the positon of the U.S. and Japan.
      Photo above: A confidential letter discussion potential use of Dokdo for U.S. military purposes – the ulterior motive for deleting Dokdo from the Treaty of Peace with Japan. It can be concluded that the deletion of Dokdo from the clauses of the Treaty was not due to lack of merit in the Korean claim. To the contrary, this letter concludes that Dokdo belongs to Korea, but proposes a plan to use it for U.S. military purposes.

      3.5 Article 19 of the Treaty of Peace: “Japan recognizes the validity of all acts and omissions” … including lack of protest over the transfer of Dokdo to Korea on August 15, 1948?

      By lobbying to deleting any mention of Dokdo from the text of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, Japan may have gained a chance to assert that it never explicitly agreed to hand over Dokdo to Korea. Dokdo is not mentioned at all in the text of the Treaty of Peace with Japan. The absence of an explicit reference to Dokdo in the text of the treaty necessitates a more careful consideration of the text of the Treaty.
      One interpretation is that Dokdo is naturally a Korean territory, which is the Korean position, and therefore, Koreans have Dokdo whether or not any explicit reference is made in the text of the Treaty. In other words, Japan does not have anything to give as far as Dokdo is concerned because Japan does not have it anyway, whether there is a textual concession or not in any treaty. The Koreans acquired Dokdo on August 15, 1948 for the Allied Powers, well before the Treaty. In this case, Japan renounced all right, title and claim to Korea with the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan. If Dokdo belongs to Korea, any right to Dokdo was renounced when Japan signed the Treaty.
      Another interpretation is that Dokdo administratively belongs to Ulleungdo, which was the case before the annexation of Korean in 1905. Since Dokdo is a sister island of Ulleungdo both figuratively and administratively, Dokdo may have been transferred “with” Ulleungdo despite the absence of any specific language. This point is best illustrated by the return of other major islands. For example, return of Jeju island (Quelpart) entitles Republic of Korea to all other appurtenant islands of Jeju island absent a clause stating otherwise. Such practices are firmly established in international law. As explained above, Dokdo can be seen from Ulleungdo, and is considered an appurtenant island of Ulleungdo. Further, the term “Is. Dagelet” meant the group of islands including Ulleungdo and Dokdo as in “Carte de la Coree” of 1846 and subsequent European maps. If Dokdo is a little sister island of Ulleungdo and is appurtenant to the elder sister island of Ulleungdo, and was recognized as such (as many historical records show), the country that owns Ulleungdo also owns Dokdo. Since Japan did not explicitly state that Dokdo remains with Japan, Koreans could argue that Japan agreed to hand over Dokdo to Japan when Japan did not specify that Dokdo was excluded, despite Japan’s knowledge that “Dagelet” can mean Ulleungdo and Dokdo. Proponents of the Japanese claim to Dokdo assert that Dokdo belonged to Shimane prefecture by the 1905 incorporation of Dokdo as terra nullius. Proponents of the Korean claim to Dokdo assert that the alleged terra nullius incorporation of Dokdo by Japan is null and void because Dokdo was already administered by Korean Empire at that time and Dokdo was not a terra nullius.
      The interpretation adopted by proponents of Japanese claim to Dokdo was that Dokdo is not a part of Korea, that Dokdo does not belong to Ulleungdo administratively, and that anything that was not specifically given to Korea still belongs to Japan. They point to Artilcle 2, (a) that state “Japan recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all right, title and claim to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet” and maintain that Claim to Dokdo was not renounced because Dokdo was not listed. Further, unlike other minor islands that were returned to Korea, proponents of the Japanese claim assert that Dokdo is “special” because Dokdo had been administratively incorporated into Shimane prefecture in 1905, and therefore can be considered a Japanese territory. Proponents of the Korean claim counter that Dokdo has always been a part of Korea throughout history, that Dokdo belongs to Ulleungdo administratively by the 1900 Imperial Ordinance of Korean Empire, that another clause of the Treaty of Peace with Japan governs all territories Japan previously held and not specifically mentioned, and that Japan could not have incorporated Dokdo because Dokdo had already been incorporated into Korea since 512 A.D.

      The other clause of the Treaty refers to Clause 19, (d) of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, which states:
      Article 19
      (d) Japan recognizes the validity of all acts and omissions done during the period of occupation under or in consequence of directives of the occupation authorities or authorized by Japanese law at that time, and will take no action subjecting Allied nationals to civil or criminal liability arising out of such acts or omissions.
      The language of Article 19, (d) of the Treaty of Peace with Japan presents a severe legal obstacle for Japan. All acts and omissions include SCAPIN 677 of January 29, 1946 that prohibited exercise of Japanese administration over Dokdo. Therefore, SCAPIN 677 was valid until April 28, 1952 as far as Japanese government was concerned. Koreans maintain that the complete lack of any protest by any of the Allied Powers or by Japan over the transfer of Dokdo on August 15, 1945 or thereabout is among the recognized valid acts and omissions of the occupation authorities. Absent specific metion in the Peace Treaty with Japan, the terms of the “Agreement Respecting the Disposition of Former Japanese Territories” should govern the disposition of territories that are not specifically mentioned in the Treaty. Koreans maintain that Japan recognized the lack of any protest over the transfer of Dokdo by the Allied Powers by agreeing to Article 19, (d), Japan is forever barred from raising any claim over Dokdo.
      In the end, the interpretation of the Treaty of Peace with Japan determines whether Japan passes the first hurdle in terms of her Claims to Dokdo. So, what did the Allied powers decide by the text of the Peace Treaty of Japan after previously stating that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the Islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands we determine.” What is the meaning of the omission of Dokdo? Was Dokdo included with Dagelet and impliedly given to Korea, or was it kept with Japan because it was not specifically listed among the islands returned to Korea? 

      3.6 A necessary condition, not a sufficient condition

      Even if the meaning of the Treaty of Peace with Japan is construed in the way most favorable to Japan, the Treaty interpreted in Japan’s favor is only a necessary condition for Japan’s claim to Dokdo. In other words, a favorable interpretation of the Treaty for Japan is not a sufficient condition for Japan’s claim that enitles Japan to claim Dokdo. Another related question is whether Japan had Dokdo at that moment anyway by legal means. Even if the Peace Treaty does not say that Japan was handing over Dokdo to Korea, Japan cannot take Dokdo if it originally did not have it. Did Japan have Dokdo at the signing of the Peace Treaty with Japan in any way?

      4.1 Summary of Japanese argument

      Japan’s claim to Dokdo is primarily based on 1905 administrative annexation of Dokdo into Shimane Prefecture. See the 1905 article published in a local Japanese newspaper and reproduced below. In terms of modern administrative actions by governments, this act is 5 years later than Emperor Gojong’s Ordinance No. 41 of 1900.
      Japan’s secondary argument is based on a sea-crossing permit issued by the Japanese government in 1661 to a group of Japanese fishermen to allow access to Dokdo for fishing purposes.
      Assuming that one of the two arguments above holds, the deletion of Dokdo in the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan enables Japan to claim to the 48 signatories of the Treaty that Japan never agreed to hand over Dokdo to Korea. Even then, South Korea, North Korea, Russia and other countries from the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, and Republic of China (Taiwan) are not signatories to the Treaty of 1951. To be able to allege that Japan kept Dokdo by deleting it from the list of territories to be handed over, Japan needs to show that somehow Dokdo belonged to Japan at one time by some means, e.g., through the first argument or the second argument or any other alternative argument.

      4.2 The sea-crossing permit argument

      In the 17th century Japan, sea-crossing permits were needed only for accessing foreign territory, and were not required to visit Japanese territories. A 1660 letter supporting the application for the permit states that a sea-crossing permit to Ulleungdo was previously issued in 1618, and that since Dokdo belongs to Ulleungdo, the application for the new permit should also be granted.
      The sea-crossing permit seems to show, if anything, that Dokdo was normally off-limits to Japanese fishermen, and that the Japanese local government was aware of Korea’s jurisdiction over Dokdo. The purpose for application of the sea-crossing permit was for the Japanese fishermen to avoid punishment from the Japanese government for causing diplomatic trouble should that ever happen, and did not provide immunity from Korean jurisdiction since they were not recognized by the Korean government.
      The argument that Dokdo belongs to Japan through the Japanese fishermen’s visit requires the presupposition that the government of Japan that normally forbids her citizens from accessing a foreign territory, i.e., Dokdo, can, by allowing a fishermen’s visit, take it from Korea that allowed free access to Dokdo without permit to her own fishermen.
      At any rate, the sea-crossing permits were canceled in 1696 after the trespassing of the Japanese fishermen into Ulleungdo and Dokdo came to the attention of the Korean government. From the very beginning, any issuance of the sea-crossing permit was done without knowledge of the Korean government, and protest from the Korean government put an end to such trespassing into the Korean territory. The Ahn Yong-bok incident was the climax of this conflict and the execution of Aizuya Hachiemon for crossing into Ulleungdo and Dokdo in 1836 is an example of the enforcement of this agreement.

      4.3 The Shimane Notice of 1905

      A more elaborate argument is base on the notice of 1905 from Shimane Prefecture, or the Shimane Notice. To assess the merits of this argument, examination of Shimane Prefecture Notice No. 40 of 1905 reveals that this was a secret document that was forbidden from copying.

      Photos above: the only original of Shimane notice No. 40

      明治三十八年 二月二十二日
      島根縣知事 松永武吉”
      Red Seal

      “Shimane Prefecture Notice No. 40
      The island located at North Latitude 37° 9′ 30″, East Meridian 131° 55′, 85 nautical miles northwest of Oki island shall be called Takeshima, and shall be under the jurisdiction of the governor of Oki island.
      February 22, 1905
      Provincial Governor Bukichi Matsunaga”

      4.4 The issue of “notice” in Shimane Notice No. 40

      While Japan tries to gloss over the red seal, there is a problem with this “DO NOT COPY, CIRCULATION ONLY” seal. The only copy of this notice is in the Shimane Prefecture office (as there should be based on the seal). The only copy of this notice was to be circulated as needed, without making copies, an equivalent of “TOP SECRET.” If this notice could not be copied, how could the content have been notified? This notice was not reported in any national newspaper like previous notices that declared incorporation of other islands. Two days later, a local newspaper had a brief report. (See below) When the Koreans became aware of this event as a Japanese inspection team arrived at Ulleungdo on March 28, 1906, the Koreans were furious. Ulleungdo Governor Heung-Taek Shim’s report went to Seoul on March 29, 1906. Alas, Japan had already stripped Korea of all diplomatic rights through Eulsa Treaty on November 17, 1905, and therefore, Koreans did not have any means of redress. Since a terra nullius incorporation requires notice, Japan’s stealthy way of incorporation presents a major obstacle on its own, let alone other issues to be addressed in Korean argument section below.

      The only notice ever known to public about Shimane Prefecture Notice No. 40 was through a local newspaper. A copy of the February 24, 1905 article in San-in Shimbun, a local newspaper in Shimane Prefecture in Japan was used to support Japan’s claim of the “notice.” According to this newspaper (see the photo to the left), an announcement was made that Takeshima (Dokdo) has been incorporated into Japanese territory and made a part of Shimane Prefecture. No national newspaper in Japan reported anything on Shimane Prefecture Notice No. 40. Therefore, the circulation of the newspaper report on Shimane Prefecture Notice No. 40 was limited to the local readers within Shimane Prefecture. As a consequence of such limited circulation, the announcement in this local newspaper was not widely noted in Japan, let alone in Korea. Even Japanese maps in 1920’s represented Dokdo as islands belonging to a Korean province. As for the substance of the notice, was Dokdo “terra nullius“?

      “Oki’s New Island

      “Eighty-five nautical ri northwest of Oki Island at 37 degrees 9 minutes 30 seconds north and 131 degrees 55 minutes east is an island called Takeshima. The prefectural governor has announced that this island is now under the jurisdiction of Oki County. The island is two islands with a circumference of about 15 cho. There are several islets around the islands and a channel between them where boats can anchor. They say that even though grass grows there, there are no trees.”

      4.5 Arguments based on western maps of 1890’s

      The Japanese argument also present maps of western nations during the 1890’s, which does not list Dokdo as Korean territory. While this is a novel approach, this argument seems to be irrelevant because the Korean maps and Japanese maps show Dokdo as Korean territory. Why would the maps of third countires matter when these countries do not understand the local issues or borders between Korea or Japan well enough to be able to draw a meaningful conclusion on the ownership of the island? Indeed, a visiting foreigner would be ill-qualified to determine the bounday of local lands. The determinative maps are those of Korea and Japan, not of the U.S., the French, the Germans, or any other third country. Yet some people seem to attempt a serious argument based on the maps of western nations at this time.

      South Korean claim is based on historical documents that refer to events as far back as 512 AD and numerous maps including Japanese maps of the 19th century that show Dokdo as Korean territory. See the history section above.

      If any of the two Japanese arguments discussed above (either based on 1905 notice at Shimane Prefecture or 1661 fishing permit argument) were valid, the effect of the deletion of Dokdo in the Peace Treaty with Japan would provide Japan a plausible argument that Dokdo rightfully belongs to Japan. To logically pursue this, Japan needs to show that Dokdo belonged to Japan by legal means.

      The secondary argument seems to be very weak as discussed above. Even for the first argument, the fundamental problem seems to be an assertion that Dokdo, apparently known to the Koreans for thousands of years, are claimed to be terra nulius, i.e., no one knew and no one claimed this island before.

      5.2 Argument against Terra Nullius hypothesis

      There is another major legal issue with Japan’s argument based on Shimane Notice No. 40. Terra nullius is an application of the principle of res nullius to real estate. In the era of European colonialism, lands occupied by “backwards” people were taken by the European powers and declared to be theirs provided that no system of property rights existed. Was Korea inhabited by “backwards” people?
      First, Japan would have to be able to claim that the civilization of Japan was so advanced and was recognized as a power capable of practicing the terra nullus principle. It is hard to argue that Japan was at the level of the European powers in 1905. Who acknowledged Japan to be on par with the European powers, and who declared that the Koreans did not have any legal system or property rights? Unlike Portugal or Spain, the Pope did not bless the Japanese to go out and Christianize the heathens. When Japan attempted to take Taiwan from China in 1895, the European powers forced Japan to abandon Taiwan. There is another problem with this theory. Japan was not a Christian nation. Any extension of implicit or explicit agreements by the European powers to the Japanese poses a theoretical problem, especially when the rational for the European expansion and the application of the terra nullus principle is allegedly for the furtherance of Christendom. If anything, Japan had persecuted Christians before.
      Second, the Korean people would have to be sufficiently “backwards,” to the level of lack of property law. This would be indeed a tough argument since records show that Gojoseon (or Gojosun), an ancient kingdom of Korea, around the second and the first millennium B.C. already had written regulations regarding property rights. Envoys of Korean governmental officials made regular contacts with the Japanese officials. Japan had signed many treaties with Korea with the presumption that what they sign on would be enforced by law in Korea. The Korean records are full of documents showing that Koreans had the sophistication of the legal system and property rights. People of Ulleungdo were people of Korea, and they had a legal system. Dokdo is visible from Ulleungdo, and no one can deny that Dokdo was used by the people of Ulleungdo. The fact that Dokdo was communally owned is completely beside the point. If communal property could not be recognized, Japan could lay a claim on Central Park in New York today. Incorporation of a real property that the people of one nation is using and exercising exclusive dominion on as terra nullius is a legal impossibility.
      This leaves only the last possibility. To enable terra nullius annexation theory by Japan, Dokdo must be a pristine land upon which no right has been previously exercised. This theory also fails because historical records are full of descriptions of events in which the right of exclusive dominion, a sine quo non characteristic of property rights, was exercised by the people of Ulleungdo and the Korean government behind them against occasional Japanese trespassers.

      5.3 Imperial Ordinance No. 41 of the Korean Empire

      In addition to all the historic documents indicating otherwise, there is another problem to this argument, i.e., the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 (an official document) from October 25, 1900 by Emperor Gojong of the Korean Empire (or “DaeHan Empire,” the official name of Korea at that time). This document seems to be an insurmountable bar to Japan’s claim since the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 employs the same method as the basis of the Japanese claim, but predates the Japanese claim by at least 4 years. In addition, the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 has been reproduced, while Japan cannot reproduce the alleged notice, except in the form of a newspaper publication that mentions it.
      Historical claims aside, Koreans also claim priority in modern administrative actions on Dokdo. A copy of the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 issued by Emperor Gojong of Korea and published in Official Gazette No. 1716 (an official publication of the Korean Empire, or “Daehan” Empire) in October 27, 1900. A photocopy image of the original of the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 is shown below:

      The date of the Ordinance is October 25, and the publication of this Imperial Ordinance followed in two days. The image below shows the first page of Official Gazette No. 1716, which includes the portion from the title of the ordinance up to Article 3. The text of the Ordinance is continued in the next page (not shown).

      Original full text of the Imperial Ordinance No. 41: 勅令第四一號

      鬱陵島 鬱島 改稱하고 島監 郡守 改正

      第一條 鬱陵島 鬱島 改稱하야 江原道 附屬하고 島監 郡守 改正하야 官制中 編入하고 郡等 五等으로 ;
      第二條 郡廳位置; 台霞洞으로 하고 區域 鬱陵全島 竹島石島 管轄;
      第三條 開國五百四年八月十日官報中 官廳事項欄 鬱陵島以下十九字 刪去하고 開國 五百五年 勅令第三十 第五條 江原道二十 ; 七字 改正하고 安峽郡下 鬱島郡三字 添入;
      第四條 經費; 五等郡으로 鍊호되 現今間인즉 吏額 未備하고 庶事草創하기로 該島收 으로 姑先磨鍊할;
      第五條 未盡 諸條 本島開拓 하야 次第磨鍊할; 附則 本令 頒布日로부터 施行; 光武四年十月二十五日 御押 御璽 議政府議政臨時署理贊政部大臣 乾夏

      Selected translation:

      “Imperial Ordinance No. 41
      Name change from “Ulleungdo” to “Uldo” and the change of the position of Island Director (“Dogam”) to District Governor (“Gunsu’)
      Article 1. The name of Ulleungdo shall be Uldo; Uldo shall belong to Gangwon Province (one of the eight provinces of the Korean Empire); the position of Island Director shall become the position of District Governor; this change shall be incorporated into the governmental system, the rank of the District shall be fifth rank;
      Article 2. The location of the district office shall be in Samchukdong (a smaller territorial division within Ulleungdo), the jurisdiction of the district office shall encompass the entire island of Ulleungdo (Ulleungjundo; i.e., Ulleungdo and other minor islands nearby), Jukdo, and Seokdo;
      Article 3. …
      October 25, 1900
      Imperial Signature (Seal with the Emperor’s handwriting), Imperial Seal, Served
      Commanded by the Cabinet, State Division, Temporary Prime Minister Secretary of Internal Affairs. Geon-Hah Lee”

      The text of the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 is a mix of Chinese characters and Korean words, as was the common usage then. Article 1 states that “Ulleung Island and Dokdo were placed under the administration of the Empire’s Samcheok county. The Headman of Uldo [a newly designated County of Ulleungdo] shall have jurisdiction over Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Seokdo (“Dokdo”). As an evidence of exercise of dominion over Dokdo by the Korean government, this is probably the most conclusive document concerning Dokdo’s ownership, preempting the first argument that Japan advances. A rebuttal for a recent novel Japanese argument that Seokdo means something other than Dokdo is found at A smaller nearby island called “Gwaneumdo” (located almost on Ulleungdo and to the northwest of Jukdo) is flush with green shrubbery and trees. Not many rocks are there. No one would call this green island a “rock island.” Also, this island is almost attached to Ulleungdo to be called a real island like other little rocks on the shores of Ulleungdo.
      Picture to the left: location of Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Seokdo in a view from the sky. Dokdo is outside the range of this picture (87.4 kilometers away). (A picture from NASA Landset 7 is used in this diagram) Scholars that claim that Dokdo in Korean maps mean Jukdo should first look at this satellite image. Given the proximity to Ulleungdo and arelativly small size, it would be difficult to equate an island drawn in a size at par with the size of Ulleungdo with Jukdo. Only Dokdo allows such a correlation. Nonetheless, some claim that Dokdo in old maps meant Jukdo based on a few erroneous maps. An example of such an argument can be found at: Even this argument seems pointless as far as the effect of the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 is concerned since the Imperial Ordinance No. 41 specifies “Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Seokdo” explicitly. Could Seokdo mean anything else other than Dokdo or Jukdo? When deciphering the meaning of Seokdo, it must be considered that all historical Korean documents about Ulleungdo and Dokdo refers to the two islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo. Why would a Korean king who had at least 18 years to study on the two islands exclude Dokdo in his administrative action on this region? The other minor islands not identified in the above picture were simply important enough to be mentioned, and was simply incorporated into “Ulleungjeondo,” i.e., Ulleungdo and other minor islands nearby.

      5.4 Evidences for administration of Dokdo

      The fact that the Korean government considered Dokdo within the administrative District of Uldo after Imperial ordinance No. 41 is clear from District Governor Heung-Taek Shim’s report of March 29, 1906 immediately following a Japanese inspection team’s visit of the District Governor’s office on March 28, 1906. The Imperial Ordinance No. 41 was understood to include Dokdo by the local District Governor. An argument that alleges that “Seokdo” means anything else other than Dokdo must explain why Dokdo was considered to be within the administrative district of Uldo when the physical distance was 87.4 km from Ulleungdo. A governmental official would need the recognition of the central government to include an island at a significant distance away to recognize it as a part of his administrative district, let alone stating so in a report to the central government.

      Photo above: a copy of the report dated April 29, 1906 and written by the District Governor, Heung-Taek Shim, to the Provincial Governor of Gangweondo. The full text and a translaton are provided below:
      鬱島郡守 沈興澤報告書 內開에 本郡所屬 獨島가 在於 外洋 百餘里 外이살더니 本月 初四日 辰時量에 輪船一雙이 來泊 于郡內道洞浦而日本官人一行이 到于官舍하야 自云 獨島가 今爲日本領地故로 視察次來到이다 이온바 其一行 則日本島根懸 隱岐島司 東文輔 及事務官神西田太郞 稅務監督局長 吉田平吾 分署長 警部 影山巖八郞 巡査一人會議一人 醫師 技手 各一人 其外 隨員 十餘人이 先問 戶摠 人口土地 生産 多少하고 且問 人員 及 經費 幾許 諸般事務를 以調査樣으로 錄去압 기 玆에 報告하오니 熙亮하시믈 伏望等 因으로 准此報告하오니 照亮하시믈 伏望
      光武十年 四月二十九日
      江原道觀察使暑痢 春川郡守 李明來
      議政府參政大臣 閣下
      Dokdo(獨島) is under the administration of our District (本郡) that is located in the outer sea at a distance of 100 some ri (40 km +). Early morning (辰時量) corresponds to the period between 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) on the fourth of this month (note: This is March 4 in Lunar calendar, and corresponds to March 28, 1906), a paddle steamer came to the port of Dodongpo wihin the District. A party of Japanese official came to our governmetal office and said ‘Now that Dokdo (獨島) has become() a territory of Japan, we have come to inspect it.’ The party, that is, DongMunBo (東文輔), who is the governor of Oki island of Shimane Prefecture of Japan, ShinSeoJeonTaeRang (神西田太郞; a misspelling of 神西由太郞), who is a secretary (of Oki island) , a supervisor of taxation GilJeonPyeongOh (吉田平吾), a (police) detachment manager officer YeongSanAmPalRang (影山巖八郞), a sargeant, a parleament member (of Shimane Prefecture), a medical doctor, a flagman, and over ten attendants, first inquired of the number of households, population, production, and then asked the number (of soldiers), economy, expenses, and the amount of other administrative work. Thus, (I: Heung-Taek Shim, the District Governor of Uldo) report this incident for your considration. Respectfully Submitted.”

      Therefore, I (Myeongrae Lee, Provincial Governor of Gangwondo) forward the copied contents of the (District Governor’s) report to you for your consideration. Respectfully submitted.
      April 29 (lunar calendar), 1906
      Distict Governor of Chunchen, Myeongrae Lee acting as temporary Provincial Governor of Gangwondo
      To: the Secretary General of the Cabinet”

      This report was received by the Cabinet on May 7, 1906. A reply to this report from the Secretary General of the Cabinet dated May 20, 1906 stated:

      來報는 閱悉이고 獨島 領地之說은 全屬無根하나 該島 形使과 日人如何行動을 更爲査報할  事.
      “The report has been reviewed. The theory on Dokdo’s incorporation (into Japan) is completely groundless. But re-inspect the incident and the state of the Japanese people.”
      5.5 Seokdo means Dokdo

      The above reports makes it clear that Dokdo (獨島) was considered by the District Governor Heung-Taek Shim, the temporary Provincial Governor of Gangwondo Myeongrae Lee, and the Cabinet of the Korean Empire to be the territory of the Korean Empire. No one asked a question like “What do you mean by Dokdo?” Dokdo meant Seokdo, and this was well understood. Note that the Imperial Ordinance No. 41, the report of the temporary Provincial Governor of Gangwondo, and the reply from the Cabinet used a mixture of Chinese characters and Korean characters. Using Chinese characters to refer to Korean names was natural. As discussed above in etymology section, the Korean word Dokseom (독섬) was the local word of the people of Ulleungdo including the Korean root word “dok” and another Korean root word “seom,” which was used locally at least until 1950’s. Conversion of the Korean root word “seom” (섬) into a Chinese character is straightforward. “Seom” becomes “do” (). Conversion of the other Korean root word “dok” (독) offers two options. A first option is to use a Chinese character that keeps the sound but connote a different meaning. In this case, the solution is “Dokdo” (獨島), the name used in Heung-Taek Shim’s report. A second option is to use a Chinese character that keeps the meaning but produces a different sound. In thei case, the solution is “Seokdo” (石島), the name used in the Imperial Ordinance No. 41.

      Were the Korean people confused by these dual notations?

      This is highly unlikely because the two methods have been used from the day the Chinese characters were used to represent Korean names, that is, from before 1 A.D. In view of this, any argument that Seokdo does not represent Dokdo is based on complete ignorance of the use of korean language and the lack of confusion from Heung-Taek Shim’s report. When Heung-Taek Shim used the term Dokdo (獨島), everyone understood the term to mean present day Dokdo.

      The administrative power of the Impedial Ordinance No. 41 was in full effect among the Korean governmental

      officials, and Seokdo (石島) was understood to mean Dokdo (獨島) by the governmental officials and enforced as such. Otherwise, Heung-Taek Shim could not have stated “Dokdo is under the administration of our District (本郡所屬 獨島).” Heung-Taek Shim, a local official, coule not have created administrative power, and any administrative power given to him must have been given by the central government of the Korea empire. Only the administrative power on “Seokdo” given to Heung-Taek Shim, and affirmed by the Cabinet of the Korean Empire, could have enabled heung-Taek Shim to state that “Dokdo is under the administration of our District.”

      5.6 Maps that reveal too much

      The Korean arguments also allege that Japan knew fully that Dokdo did not originally belong to Japan and that it was taken from Korea during the Japanese occupation of Korea. For example, unintentional admission of Korean sovereignty over Dokdo may be found in many instances including the following map:
      Photo to the left:
      “Land Survey Department District Summary Map” (陸地測量部發行地圖區域一覽圖(其一)) of 1936 published from the Japanese Command categorizes Dokdo as a territory “acquired after Meiji restoration” of 1867. This map is supposed to be a definitive accurate map reflecting the position of the Japanese government. At that time, Japan occupied Korea and there was no need to hide the origin of Dokdo. Japan had a full control over Dokdo anyway as a conquering nation.



      5.7. The transfer of Dokdo from the Allied Powers to Korea on August 15, 1948 is valid because Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration.

      The acts and omissions of the Allied Powers are binding on Japan because the unconditional surrender by Japan on August 15, 1945 is an acceptance of the Cairo declaration of December 1, 1943 and the Potsdam declaration of July 26, 1945. The Cairo declaration states in part:

      The Three Great Allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan. They covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion.
      It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China.
      Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed. The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.

      Dokdo would certainly qualify for a territory taken by Japan by “violence and greed.” The Shimane Notice was ineffective because it was not known to anyone in Korea. Dokdo was taken by Japan with the rest of the Korean peninsula only after the Eulsa Treaty became effective and Korea could not protest. However, the Eulsa Treaty of November 17, 1905 (which made Korea a protectorate of Japan) was signed under threat while Japanese troops surrounded the Korean imperial palace. The Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty signed on August 22, 1910 proclaimed that “His Majesty the Emperor of Korea makes the complete and permanent cession to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan of all rights of sovereignty over the whole of Korea.” This Treaty did not even have the imperial seal of the Korean Emperor as required for any international treaty by the then Korean law. Possession of Dokdo by Japan during the colonial rule was possible only because Japan enslaved unwilling Korean people in a manifest demonstration of “violence and greed.” The violence and greed would become even more manifest in a subsequent Japanese expansion into China and territories of other Allied Powers in the Pacific.

      In addition, article 8 of the Potsdam declaration states:

      (8) The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.

      At noon on August 15, 1945, Japan accepted the terms of the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration as the Japanese Emperor announced that:

      … Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.* Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers. …
      *Note: A keen observer might conclude that the continuation of fight would not have brought a total extinction of human civilization, but only an end of the Japanese government or the Japanese nation.
      Acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration (and Cairo Declaration by implication) by Japan was captured in the Japanese Instrument of Surrender signed on September 2 on board U.S.S. Missouri. The first clause of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender states:
      We, acting by command of and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.
      Acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration means that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.” So, what did the Allied Powers determine about Dokdo? The U.S. XXIV Corps handed over the entire territory it controlled to the newly born government of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. There was no territory that the U.S. XXIV Corps held back from the government of the Republic of Korea. And Dokdo was part of the territory that the U.S. XXIV Corps controlled. The action of the U.S. XXIV Corps is not only an action in the capacity of the army of the United States, but also an action as a representative of all nations in the Allied Powers. The transfer of Dokdo to the government of the Republic of Korea is binding on all the nations in the Allied Powers and Japan. In other words, by the explicit act of territorial transfer of Dokdo to the Korean government, the Allied Powers determined that Japanese sovereignty shall not extend to Dokdo. The decision on August 15, 1948 predates the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan by more than three years. The unconditional surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945 makes valid and effective the determination, by the act of the Allied Powers, that Dokdo belongs to Korea.

      5.8. The Japanese claim to Diaoyutai Islands requires acceptance of Dokdo as a Korean territory.

      Diaoyutai islands ( 釣魚台群島 or 钓鱼台群岛), also called Senkaku Islands (尖閣諸島 ) by Japan and previously known as Pinnacle Islands, are a group of islands that Japan currently controls based on an administrative transfer from the U.S. to Japan. Taiwan claims Diaoyutai Islands as its territory, and People’s Republic of China also claims it as an island appurtenant to Taiwan.

      Photo above: location and transfer history of Dokdo and Diaoyutai islands

      After the First Sino-Japanese War, Diaoyutai Islands were ceded from the Qing dynasty of China to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki on 17 April 1895 along with the rest of Taiwan. Taiwan and the Chinese government maintain that Diaoyutai Islands were returned to China when Japan returned all Chinese territories it had acquired from China since the First Sino-Japanese War at the end of the Second World War. The Chinese claim to these islands go back at least to 1403, when the Chinese book “Voyage with the Tail Wind” (順風相送) recorded Diaoyutai Islands, and possibly back to the eighth century B.C. See . Japan claims that there is no evidence that Diaoyutai Islands had been under Chinese control. In the middle of the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan formally declared Diaoyutai Islands as a Japanese territory. After the Second World War, Diaoyutai Islands were occupied by the United States until 1972, when it was handed over to Japan with the termination of United States Military Government jurisdiction over the Article 3 territories of the Treaty of Peace with Japan (Treaty of San Francisco). The Japanese government claims that the transfer of Diaoyutai Islands from the U.S. to Japan in 1972 is valid, and that this transfer gives sovereignty of Japan over Diaoyutai Islands.

      Could Japan seriously claim that the transfer of Dokdo from the U.S. as a representative of the Allied Powers to the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948 is not valid? Application of the same logic to the transfer of Daiyutai islands to Japan invalidates the Japanese control over Diaoyutai Islands. If the transfer of Dokdo to Korea is not valid, so is the transfer of Diaoyutai islands to Japan, and consequently, Japanese occupation of Diaoyutai Islands is illegal! To maintain the Japanese claim to Diaoyutai islands, the Japanese government must acknowledge the transfer of Dokdo to Korea as legal. Otherwise, Japan must discuss the disposition of Diaoyutai Islands with Taiwan and China immediately!

      5.9. Japanese laws excluded Dokdo from the jurisdiction of the Japanese government.

      Japan passed many laws that excluded Dokdo from the Japanese territory even after the Second World War and well after founding of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. Many of them were validated even after Japan began to assert a territorial claim to Dokdo after the Treaty of Peace with Japan, signed in September, 1951. Such laws were enacted at high levels such as the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Finance as well as local governments that copied the provisions of the higher laws. They were still valid laws in Japan as of December 5, 2008! By the time the Japanese government realized these embarrassing disclosures, some laws were already published over the internet.

      A first example of Japanese laws that acknowledge Dokdo to be out of reach of the Japanese sovereignty is “Prime Minister’s Office Ordinance No. 42” issued on June 6, 1951 (Click on the link for the original text). The text of Prime Minister’s Office Ordinance No. 42 includes:

      第一条  …
      第二条  令第十四条の規定に基き、政令第二百九十一号第二条第一項第二号の規定を準用する場合においては、附属の島しよとは、左に掲げる島しよ以外の島しよをいう。

      一  千島列島、歯舞群島(水晶、勇留、秋勇留、志発及び多楽島を含む。)及び色丹島
      二  小笠原諸島及び硫黄列島
      三  鬱陵島、竹の島及び済州島
      四  北緯三十度以南の南西諸島(琉球列島を除く。)
      五  大東諸島、沖の鳥島、南鳥島及び中の鳥島

      第三条  …

      Ordinance of Prime Minister on the enforcement decree of the Cabinet Order regarding the disposal of assets in the Mutual Aid Association within the Transportation Bureau of the “Japanese government in Korea” (note: Japanese government in Korea refers to the branch of the Japanese government that governed Korean during the forced occupation of Korea between 1910 and 1945.)

      (Prime Minister’s Office Ordinance No. 42, June 6, Showa 26th year (note: 1951))
      Final revision: the Ministry of Finance Decree No. 43, July 8, Showa 35th year (note: 1960))
      In order to carry out the Cabinet Order on the disposal of assets in the Mutual Aid Association within the Transportation Bureau of the Japanese government in Korea (Cabinet Order No. 40 of Showa 26th year), the procedure listed below is to be followed on the disposal of assets in the Mutual Aid Association within the Transportation Bureau of the Japanese government in Korea as stipulated in the decree of the Prime Minister following the Cabinet Order for Enforcement.
      Article 1. …
      Article 2. Based on the provisions of Article 14 of this Ordinance, when the provisions of Cabinet Order No. 291, Article 2, Clause 1, Sub-clause 2 is applied, the following islands shall be excluded:

      1. Chishima Island, Habomai Islands (suishou , isamiryuu , including potential development of tarakushima) Shikotan Island (note: these islands refer to Kuril islands that are now Russian territories),
      2. Ogasawara Islands (note: this refers to
      Bonin islands ) and Iwo Jima (note: These island were occupied by the Allied Powers during the Second World War and returned to Japan in 1968.)
      3. Ulleungdo, Takeshima, and Jeju island (note: These island were occupied by the Allied Powers during the Second World War and handed over to South Korea on August 15, 1948.)
      Daito Islands , Okinotorishima , and Torishima in Minami Torishima (note: the United States assumed sovereignty over the Daito Islands and Ogasawara islands, and returned authority over these islands to Japan in 1968. Sovereignty over Torishima in Minami Torishima was disputed between Japan and the U.S. even before the Second World War. The U.S. decided to end the dispute by selling this island to Japan in 1968.)

      Article 3. …

      A second example of Japanese laws that acknowledge Dokdo to be out of reach of the Japanese sovereignty is “Ministry of Finance Decree No. 4 ” issued on February 13, 1951, (Click on the link for the original text. This law was also still effective as of December 5, 2008. The text of Ministry of Finance Decree No. 4 includes:

       旧令による共済組合等からの年金受給者のための特別措置法 (昭和二十五年法律第二百五十六号)第四条第三項 に規定する附属の島は、左に掲げる島以外の島をいう。
      一  千島列島、歯舞列島(水晶島、勇留島、秋勇留島、志発島及び多楽島を含む。)及び色丹島
      二  鬱陵島、竹の島及び済州島
         附 則
         附 則 (昭和四三年六月二六日大蔵省令第三七号)

      Ordinance for determining applicable islands under Article 4, Clause 3 of the old ordinance:
      (Ministry of Finance Decree No. 4 issued on February 13, Showa 26th year (note: 1951))
      Final revision: the Ministry of Finance Decree No. 37 issued on June 26, Showa 43th year (note: 1968))
      The following rules are to be applied for determining applicable islands under Special Measures for pensioners of the Mutual Aid Association under Article 4, Clause 3 of the old ordinance:
      The islands covered under Article 4, Clause 3 of the Ordinance for determining applicable islands under Special Measures for pensioners of the Mutual Aid Association (Law No. 256 of Showa 25th year (note: 1950)) refer to islands other than:
      1. Chishima Island, Habomai Islands (suishou , isamiryuu , including potential development of tarakushima) Shikotan Island,
      2. Ulleungdo, Takeshima, and Jeju island.
      Supplementary Provision:
      This ministerial ordinance is effective from the date of promulgation, and is to apply from January 1, Showa 26th year.
      Supplementary Provisions: (Ministry of Finance Decree No. 37 issued on June 26, Showa 43th year)
      This ministerial ordinance will be enforced from the date of entry into force of the Agreement between the United States and Japan on the southern islands and other islands.

      Such Japanese ordinances limited the Japanese sovereignty to exclude the listed islands, which included Dokdo. At the very least, these ordinances are admissions by the Japanese government that Japanese sovereignty did not extend to Dokdo and other listed islands at the time of they were issued. In the case of the Ministry of Finance Decree No. 37, lack of sovereignty over Dokdo was affirmed in 1968. If the law of a nation does not apply to a territory, the sovereignty of the territory does not belong to that nation. The Japanese government declared that the law of Japan does not reach the listed islands, which includes Dokdo. At the very least, it is clear that Dokdo was never considered an inherent Japanese territory contrary to assertions of some proponents of the Japanese claim.

      Japan acquired sovereignty over Ogasawara Islands including Iwo Jima, Daito Islands, Okinotorishima, and Torishima in Minami Torishima from the United States in 1968. If Japan has sovereignty over the acquired islands, this is because the United States, as a representative of the Allied Powers, handed over these islands to Japan. In the case of Dokdo, the United States, as a representative of the Allied Powers, handed over Dokdo to Korea on August 15, 1948. If the Japanese sovereignty over the acquired island is valid because the U.S. handed over these islands to Japan, why is the Korean sovereignty over Dokdo not valid when the U.S. handed over Dokdo to Korea in 1948?

      5.10. The Japanese government is legally estopped from claiming Dokdo by the combination of Article 19, (d) of the “Treaty of Peace with Japan” and the lack of any protest over the transfer of Dokdo to the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948.

      As discussed above, Article 19, (d) of the Treaty of Peace with Japan states:

      (d) Japan recognizes the validity of all acts and omissions done during the period of occupation under or in consequence of directives of the occupation authorities or authorized by Japanese law at that time, and will take no action subjecting Allied nationals to civil or criminal liability arising out of such acts or omissions.

      The transfer of Dokdo on August 15, 1948 to the South Korean government occurred between August 15, 1945 (the date of Japan’s surrender) and the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, which was concluded on September 8, 1951 and took effect on April 28, 1952. Thus, transfer of Dokdo to Korea occurred during the occupation of Japan by the “occupation authorities.” Further, the transfer of Dokdo to Korea occurred either with the active support by the “occupation authorities” over Japan or with the passive omission to protest over the transfer by the “occupation authorities. Whether the acts of the “occupation authorities,” i.e., the administrative branch of the Allied Powers in Japan, are construed as an active support of the transfer of Dokdo from another branch of the Allied Powers in Korea, i.e., the Korea-based U.S. XXIV Corps to the newly born government of the Republic of Korea or as a passive failure to protest over the transfer of Dokdo is wholly immaterial in this regard. Any reason or motivation on the part of the “occupation authorities” over Japan for their implied support (an act) or failure to protest (an omission) over the transfer of Dokdo is also wholly immaterial. Article 19 (d) is an unlimited statement without qualifications. All acts and omissions of the occupation authorities were recognized by Japan with the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, and such acts and omissions include active or passive support of the transfer of Dokdo by the administrative branch of the Allied Powers in Japan in any manner. Dokdo is not mentioned in the text of the Treaty of Peace. If Dokdo was to be interpreted as a part of Ulleungdo, Dokdo was disclaimed forever as part of Ulleungdo. If Dokdo was not to be interpreted as part of Ulleungdo, then general provisions such as Article 19, (d) prevail in the absence of any clause specifically mentioning Dokdo in the text of the Treaty of Peace with Japan. Thus, any right to protest over the incorporation of Dokdo into the Korean territory has been wavered by Japan by agreeing to the term that “Japan recognizes the validity of all acts and omissions done during the period of occupation under or in consequence of directives of the occupation authorities or authorized by Japanese law at that time.

      When the Korean government took over Dokdo on August 15, 1948 and exercised their sovereignty over Dokdo, the prohibition of Japanese access to, let alone administration over, Dokdo imposed by the “occupation authorities” over Japan was valid at that time. Arguendo, even if any invalidity of such an action might have been asserted by Japan in any reasonable time thereafter, the complete lack of any protest by any of the Allied Powers or by Japan over the matter of Dokdo at that time became irrevocably and retroactively valid and unchallengeable when Japan acknowledged the validity of all acts and omissions done during the period of occupation under or in consequence of directives of the occupation authorities. Japan agreed that all acts and omissions by the occupation authorities are valid as of the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan. A permanent legal estoppel was generated by Japan’s agreement with Article 19 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan. In other words, once Japan stated that the situation caused by the Allied Powers is recognized at the signing of the Treaty, the doctrine of estoppel applies to bind Japan. Korea as well as all members of the Allied Powers relied on Japan’s agreement to recognize all acts and omissions of the occupation authorities, and consequently considered the transfer of Dokdo irrevocable and unchallengeable. Therefore Japan cannot be subsequently raise any claim Dokdo over Dokdo.

      Photo to the left: A U.N. and U.S. Army map of KADIZ (Korean Air Defense Identification Zone) published in June, 1950 at the outbreak of the Korean War. Dokdo is clearly located within the area identified as KADIZ.

      Japan’s admission of the transfer of Dokdo to Korea includes not only the lack of protest after the initial transfer on August 15, 1948, but also Includes lack of any objection to the setting up of Korean Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ), established by the U.S. Air Force’s Pacific Command in 1950 during the rule of the Allied Powers. Once again, there was no protest over this act either by the “occupation authorities” or by Japan. Every claim to any issue that Japan impliedly agreed to by not objecting between August 15, 1945 and April 28, 1952 was given away.

      Photo to the left: A U.S. Air Force map of 1987. The boundary between Korean Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ) and Japanese Air Defense Identification Zone (JADIZ) is clearly identified. Dokdo is located at the center of the red circle, which is well within the area of KADIZ. The border of KADIZ has never been changed since 1950. The state-of-the-art radar at Dokdo forms an integral part of the Korean air defense system.

      Thus, Koreans maintain that there was no right that Japan could have asserted to begin after the Second World War because Dokdo was Korea’s territory to begin with, and that, arguendo, even if any such right remained in any manner for Japan up to the effective date of the Treaty of Peace with Japan (April 28, 1952), the legal implication of Article 19 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan was to extinguish all such Japanese right that might have existed over Dokdo at that time irrevocably and permanently by their voluntary agreement to recognize all acts and omissions of the “occupying authorities.” In simple terms, the Japanese government under the occupation by the Allied Powers never made any protest over the transfer of Dokdo by the Allied Powers to the Republic of Korea and declared that all acts and omissions by the Allied Powers would be recognized by signing the Treaty of Peace. In short, why is Japan changing its position on Dokdo after the ink became dry on the document? The deal was already finished with all conditions for Japan for reacquiring its sovereignty after the occupation specified in detail. The terms cannot be changed after the signing of the treaty.

      Because Dokdo was the first piece of land to be taken by Japan during the Japanese expansion into Korea that lasted until 1945, and because of the memory of Japanese oppression during the Japanese rule that the Koreans resent bitterly, Dokdo has a symbolic meaning to Koreans as a symbol of Korean sovereignty.

      When the omission of Dokdo in the Treaty of Peace with Japan became known, South Korean President Syngman Lee proclaimed “the Declaration of Maritime Sovereignty” on January 18, 1952 before Japan regained national rule on April 28, 1952. The Declaration of Maritime Sovereignty included a “Peace Line” or ‘Syngman Lee Line,” which is a direct extension of the previous “MacArthur Line.” Thus, the effect of the Peace line is a continuation of a maritime border between Japan and Korea during the rule of the Allied Supreme Command. Syngman Rhee exercised territorial claim to Dokdo by first sending a research vessel and subsequently inhabiting Dokdo. Japanese vessels crossing the Peace Line were detained.

      Perhaps in an attempt to avoid forfeiture by lack of objection, Japan made repeated claims on Dokdo. These repeated claims by Japan, combined Korean’s perception of lack of apology from Japan for their atrocious activities during the Japanese occupation period (1910-1945), have brought the Japanese-Korean relationship to low levels in recent years. Latest incidents involve Japan’s unilateral declaration on July 14, 2008 that Japanese textbooks will identify Dokdo as Japanese territory, which triggered an uproar in South Korea and resulted in temporary recalling of the Korean ambassador to Japan.
      In the end, does Japan have enough objective evidence to lay a valid claim on Dokdo? South Korean claim might be refutable on some counts. But there seem to be more flaws to the Japanese claim than the Korean claim in many aspects. Irrespective of merits of the arguments, what will happen if the Japanese children grow up believing that Dokdo belongs to Japan? When two people firmly believe the same land is their own, won’t that trigger a military conflict between Japan and Korea? Also, given the relative weakness of Japan’s claims and Korea’s present occupation of Dokdo, is teaching the Japanese children that Dokdo belongs to Japan a wise thing or even an honest thing to do? Where are the two nations headed now once both nations are filled with people that firmly believe that Dokdo is theirs? The merits of the Korean claim or the Japanese claim may not matter once people decide that the island must be owned by themselves. After all, we have seen many cases in which passion triumphs over reason in the past.

      To the Koreans, defending Dokdo is an issue of national sovereignty and refusal to accept justification for the forced occupation of Korea by Japan between 1905 and 1945. This is best surmised by the statement of the first Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea

      Dr. Yung-Tai Pyun (변영태) made on July 8, 1953.

      “독도는 일본의 한국침략에 대한 최초의 희생지였다. 해방과 함께 독도는 우리의 품안에 안겼다. 독도는 한국독립의 상징이다. 이 섬에 손을 대는 자는 모든 한국인의 완강한 저항을 각오하라! 독도는 단 몇 개의 바위덩어리가 아니라, 우리 겨레의 영예의 닻이다. 이것을 잃고서야 어찌 독립을 지킬 수 있겠는가! 일본이 독도를 탈취하려는 것은 한국의 재침략을 의미하는 것이다.”

      “Dokdo was the first victim of the Japanese aggression upon Korea. Dokdo has come back to our bosom with our liberation. Dokdo is the symbol of Korean independence. Whoever touches this island should be prepared for the resistance of the entire Korean people! Dokdo is not just several rocks, but is the anchor of the honor of our people. How could we defend our independence after losing Dokdo! The Japanese attempt to take Dokdo means the resumption of their aggression upon Korea.”

      The chance that South Korea would agree to Japan’s proposal to go to the International Court of Justice is close to nil. This might seem odd because if the Korean Claim is so strong and the Japanese claim is so weak, why not go to the International Court of Justice to put an end to this dispute? The mere act of submission to the International Court of Justice would mean that Dokdo is negotiable and justiciable. At least for the Koreans, Dokdo is not negotiable or justiciable. Ownership of Dokdo is not something that International Court of Justice is entitled to meddle with. As it is, Korea has 100 % possession of Dokdo. Going to any court would reduce the chance to a number less than 100 %. Even if Korea had 99.9 % chance of winning, Korea would not submit to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice for a non-negotiable territory as a matter of principle. Submission to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice would mean that a challenge to the ownership of an island has been acknowledged, i.e., that a small probability that the island might belong to the other nation is acknowledged.
      Worse, the fact that the past records of the International Courts of Justice includes many questionable decisions in which a conquered nation was stripped of a property for not timely objecting to forfeiture even during a colonial rule under conquering nation, despite having no chance to object, does not instill much confidence among potential litigants, either. In other words, at least some of the International Court of Justice decisions seem to look at colonial occupation favorably. If forcible annexation by Japan during the Japanese imperial period could be justified in that court, Korea would be at a disadvantage. This is not to imply that Japan is at an advantage to the International Court of Justice. If the International Court of Justice acknowledges Japan’s forcible occupation of Dokdo during the colonial period, why should it exclude South Korea’s forcible occupation in 1951, either by the Korean government or the local people of Ulleungdo? But from the Korean perspective, Korea has nothing to gain from this exercise. Why would the Koreans want to go to the Court of International Justice, which may, or may not, be just to them based on past records? Another interesting aspect of the Court of International Justice is that the decision is non-binding. There is no international body that enforces the decision of the Court of International Justice. A dissatisfied party can simply state that it will not follow the decree of the Court. Winning in this Court does not give any party any real right anyway.

      On July 14, 1977, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which determines names to be used in U.S. documents, decided to change the listing of “Tok-to – Korea” (a variation of Dokdo) to “Liancourt Rocks.” The background for this change is unclear. Considering that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names is chaired by a Central Intelligence Officer and that 1977 was a time of diplomatic tension between the United States and South Korea, there is a possibility that this change could have been a diplomatic action by the United States under the influence of Japan. In an attempt to cut defense budget under the stagflation conditions of the 1970’s, President Jimmy Carter announced a plan to cut 14,000 U.S. personnel, although this effort was later stopped after cutting only 3,600 personnel due to U.S. generals’ vehement protests. President Chung-hee Park of South Korea, already edgy after witnessing the consecutive fall of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in 1975 and withdrawal of the United State forces from these regions, intended to defend the nation without resorting to external help by developing a nuclear arsenal (The South Korean nuclear program was later scrapped). The South Korean nuclear program created enormous diplomatic conflict with the United States, although the two nations tried to conceal this conflict. Whether the name of change for Dokdo was an attempt to gain leverage over unruly South Korea is purely speculatory, but it must be conceded that this change occurred at a lowest point of diplomatic relationship between the United States and South Korea. U.S. policy of listing Dokdo as “Liancourt Rocks” has not been reversed since, however, effectively boosting the Japanese claim.

      For about one week in July, 2008, Dokdo was briefly listed as “undetermined sovereignty area” in the website of the

      U.S. Board on Geographic Names. This changed caused such an uproar in South Korea and diplomatic tension between South Korea, the United States, and Japan that U.S. President George W. Bush ordered a reversal of this change to resolve this problem.

      This raises an interesting aspect of the Japanese-Korean confrontation on the issue of Dokdo. If Dokdo known as an undetermined sovereignty area so that no one is sure of whose land it is, then the rest of the world cannot intervene in a military conflict between Japan and Korea. It is noteworthy that during the Falklands War of 1982, the Falkland Islands were internationally recognized as a British territory, enabling the United Nations to promptly pass resolutions condemning the Argentinian takeover and thereby justifying the retaking of the islands by the British. If Dokdo becomes identified as an “undetermined” sovereignty area and known as such

      , Japan would be encouraged to attempt a military takeover of Dokdo at an opportune time since this would be only a dispute over an island of undetermined ownership between two countries, and the world is not likely to act on a conflict over an “undetermined” sovereignty area. In contrast, if Dokdo is identified as a Korean island with Korean sovereignty, the net effect would be to discourage Japan from attempting any such military action for fear of world opinion. Changing the name Dokdo to Liancourt Rocks has such political and military implications. Should the process of name change continue and the name Liancourt Rocks changes to Takeshima in the future, the probability of a military conflict between Japan and Korea would rise exponentially, given Japan’s superior naval power relative to South Korean naval power. As of 2008, Japan’s total naval tonnage is about 3 times that of South Korea, and Japan has 6 Aegis destroyers compared to South Korea’s 1. What is in a name? A rose by any other name might still be a rose in essence, but Dokdo by another name may not be the same in terms of ownership.

      In addition to rich fishery around Dokdo and the Ulleung islands, methane hydrate (also called methane clathrate or methane ice) has recently been discovered in the deep waters around Dokdo. Methane hydrate is a solid form of water containing a large quantity of methane, and is stable up to 18 °C. Methane hydrate is considered to be one of alternative fuels. A vast amount (about 600 million tons) of methane hydrate deposits are buried on the sea floor around Dokdo.

      Picture to the left: map of East Sea near Dokdo. Area indicated with a red polygon is the area of the methane hydrate deposit. (source: Korea Petroleum Association)

      1. For a comprehensive review of Dokdo’s history and authoritative discussion of sovereignty of Dokdo, refer to

      2. For a comprehensive review of Dokdo’s geology, biology, history, and culture, refer to:

      3. For geological and biological features of Dokdo, refer to:

      4. For the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, refer to:

      5. For a summary of key points of the Japanese argument, refer to:

      6. For an official response of South Korean Government to the Japanese claims posted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, refer to

      7. For a comprehesive comparison of Korean and Japanese arguments, refer to:

      8. For discussion of the secrecy of the Japanese notice of 1905 in Shimane Prefecture, and consequent invalidity of the terra nullius incorporation of Dokdo, refer to: (in Korean)

      9. A discussion of 1877 Daijokan document (in direct conflict with point No. 3 in reference No. 5 above) is found at:

      10. U.S. view of the conflict over Dokdo can be found at:

      11. For a condensed history of Dokdo, refer to:

      12. For an easy reading on the early and medieval history of Dokdo, refer to:

      13. For an easy reading on the early and medieval history of Dokdo in Korean, refer to:

      14. For a summary of the meaning of the combination of the 1877 Daijokan document, Imperial Ordinance No. 41 of 1900, and the Shimane Prefecture Notice No. 40 as interpreted from the Korean side, refer to:

      15. For elaboration on divergence of local name to “dok-seom” and Dokdo and the name “Usan” as used in Seoul, refer to:

      16. For a rebuttal of a Japanese argument that “Seokdo” does not mean “Dokdo,” refer to:

      17. For discussion of Korea (already stripped of diplomatic rights) after Japan’s notice of incorporation of Dokdo into Shimane Prefecture is found at:

      18. For a detailed description of the changes in the draft of the Treaty of Peace with Japan, refer to:

      19. Additional background for deletion of Dokdo at the Treaty of Peace with Japan of 1951 is found at: This reference is skimpy on Dokdo’s prior history from 512 A.D. until 1905.

      20. The official website of an organization for protecting Korean sovereignty over Dokdo is: (In Korean; This site provides extensive proof that Dokdo was well known to the Koreans since the 6th century.)

      21. A collection of erroneous Korean maps in which the location of Usan (Dokdo) was confused with the location of Jukdo (a nearby island from Ulleungdo) by Korean cartographers is found at:

      22. A collection of “correct” Korean maps (more numerous than the erroneous maps) in which Dokdo shows up where it should can be found at:

      23. An official Dokdo museum web site:

      24. A collection of useful information about Dokdo: (Limited Multilingual)

      25. Boundary & Territory Briefing, Vol. 3, No. 8 “The resolution of the Territorial Disputes between Korea and Japan over the Liancourt Rocks,” Seokwoo Lee

      26. For an opinion on cost and benefit (or lack thereof) analysis of the Japanese persistence on its claim to Dokdo, see:⊂=&uid=200800041661&keyword=&page=6 

      I express many thanks to the people who generated source materials to enable this article. When a subject as complex as Dokdo is discussed, one has to resort to source materials to provide meaningful discussions. Especially on the subject of sovereignty of Dokdo, many arguments have been previously advanced. To provide an objective view, these arguments needed to be repeated here and explained. I have to admit that only a few sections contain my original contribution and the rest has been put together by incorporating many different sources, indeed, quite a few. Without the contributions of the original authors of the source materials, this article would have been impossible. This statement is true for the authors listed in the references section, including those with whom I did not agree.
      As for objectivity, I believe achieving true objectivity on a topic like Dokdo would be very difficult. Perhaps we can agree on Dokdo’s external characteristics. On the subject of sovereignty, I wonder if anyone can be really objective once she acquires enough information about this subject. This is particularly true when one writes on a subject after a comparing all evidences. Personally, the more evidence I accumulated, the harder it was to maintain impartiality since my own judgment and conclusions invariably found their way into the paragraphs. Despite this defect in objectivity, I hope that I have given a reasonably fair chance to the readers of this article to come to an independent conclusion herself by presenting all relevant arguments. The effectiveness of this effort is something to be judged by the readers.
      Apart from politics, if you would ask me who “owns” Dokdo, I would say that the birds there own Dokdo. The Creator put them there before humans came. Some are indigenous birds. They have nowhere to go if Dokdo is note there. Some are migratory birds. They need Dokdo to rest their weary wings on their long travel. I would also say that Dokdo belongs to the fish there because the fish need the shallow waters of Dokdo. Between the birds and the fish, Dokdo’s ownership is peacefully divided with the understanding that by the divine granted to the birds to eat little fish, the birds eat some fish. Other than that, the whole place is peaceful within the law of nature. Dokdo used to belong to the seals and sea lions. It is a real shame that humans managed to put an end to their existence.
      As for human ownership, my personal view is that the people whose livelihood depends on Dokdo should have priority over other claimants. While some may disagree with my view, I think the people of Ulleungdo has the first priority in terms of the strength of the claim. They “own” Dokdo because they used Dokdo for living, that is, to catch fish. Some of them probably died during a storm on a fishing trip, and left heartbroken families in Ulleungdo as is typical in fishing communities. The fishermen from Oki islands would have to be given some consideration here because they were also on Dokdo many times in fishing trips. Apparently, the people from Oki islands were not welcomed by the people from Ulleungdo at the waters around Dokdo. Oki islands and Ulleungdo island belonging to different governments, this has become international incidents, of which one example is the Ahn Yong-bok incident. Thus, we are forced into determining as to who has more right over Dokdo. Physical division of a real property is never an easy thing, and is practically impossible for an island. Overall, I am inclined to think the the people of Ulleungdo has more rights over Dokdo than the people in Oki islands based on physical distance and visibility and the estimation of historic usage of Dokdo. Someone has to make a concession if a peaceful world is to be pursued.
      The people of Ulleungdo is not the same as the Korean government or the Japanese government. One needs to remember that the modern concept of national identity is relatively new. To support my assertion, I point to the Three Kingdom period in Korean history during which ancestors of present day Koreans were enemies among themselves, and to the numerous military conflicts among feudal lords during which fealty was sworn to the local lords. In the past, people just lived daily lives, and thought about their national identity only when there was a national crisis such as an invasion. The people of Ulleungdo were the people of Usan-guk prior to Shilla’s conquest, their posterities who lived as citizens of Shilla, their posterities who lived as citizens of Koryo, their posterities who lived as citizens of Chosun, their posterities who lived as citizens of an expanded Japanese Empire with or without their own consent, and their posterities who became citizens of South Korea as an independent country including those 30 men who decided that they will risk their lives to keep Dokdo as their own. If Ulleungdo were to become another nation’s territory some day, Dokdo should go with Ulleungdo as a little sister island because the people of Ulleungdo has an immediate use of Dokdo. To me, this right has been handed down from generation to generation by the law of the Creator. Borrowing the words of John Locke (1632 – 1704), if God put men on earth, surely God permitted men to acquire food for sustenance. To the degree that it is needed for sustenance of life, property rights are God-given. This is not to say that I am agreeing that any government can

      naturally use an island to declare so many nautical miles as their own exclusive water, especially when the distance is as much as 200 nautical miles. I consider this arbitrary international rule rather barbaric and greedy, but that seems to be the international trend.

      Regarding the political situation, my hope is that the reader had a chance to weigh all evidences to decide who has more right on this island. I welcome any comment that provides a truly revealing point, or a revolutionary view. A revolutionary view is exactly what we need today – the ability to see things in a different perspective. In fact, one of the reasons I put in the section on a possible military conflict was that Dokdo could really turn into a battlefield between Korea and Japan. How this benefits anybody is beyond my imagination. One has to remember that a war is never glorious. Check on the number of soldiers who committed suicide after the Falkland War. That number approaches the total wartime casualty. See I hope I scared enough people with the possibility of a real war so we don’t have a real one in the end. Every soldier who dies in a war was a son or a daughter of someone who loved her/him.
      Personally, I believe that the possibility of a military is very real. Because Japan has more people and more weaponry, most likely Japan will prevail in such a military conflict. What Korea will do for retaliation is a pure speculation at this point, but the Korean leaders will be forced to do something devastating to Japan in retaliation. What about the loss of good will for Japan from the rest of the world, that would have to be paid to get this island and restore the pride of the Japanese people? The Japanese people may be happy for a while, but the rest of the world will look at Japan with deep suspicion. What about the bitterness of the Korean people? This would be equivalent to Japanese Occupation No. 2 to them. If the German people went to the Second World War for vengeance after the First World War, the Korean people will be ready for the next war when the chance comes. Also, I believe that the issue of sovereignty over Dokdo may influence the political alignment of east Asian countries for years to come. One needs to remember that China, Russia, and North and South Koreas are not signatories to the Treaty of Peace with Japan in 1951. Political alignment among these countries among these nations, Japan, and the United States in the future, say in 100 years, is far from clear. Dokdo, Senkaku (Diaoyutai) islands, and Kuril islands may become the central issue in determining the diplomatic future among these countries.
      I welcome comments directed toward merits and/or lack of merits of various arguments presented here. I do not believe in putting a spin on facts, but believe that honest attitude and pursuit of truth are some of the best traits humans can have, and that the truth will come out in the end and will guide us to come to rational conclusions if we remain open-minded and willing to see the truth. In this regard, I am committed to reviewing any potentially meritorious argument supported by evidence, strong or weak. Thank you for reading my article, and best wishes to you all!

      Byeongju Park