A Korean Perspective on the Truth about Dokdo

By Yeon Woo Lee (‘21)

“Jessica, only child. Illinois, Chicago. Senior is Kim Jin Mo, who is your cousin.” This clip from the Korean movie Parasite became known as the Jessica Jingle. Although this resulted in an addiction nature to those watching the movie, the jingle has a wholly different meaning for Koreans. The melody of the jingle originates from “Dokdo is Our Land”, a song that is used to teach young Korean students about Dokdo, a small island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. Yet little do outsiders know that this tiny island remains one of the hottest disputes between Japan and South Korea.

From the South Korean perspective, the island has always been kept in its records as a part of its territory. Officially, it declared Dokdo to be a part of its territory to the world in 1900 through the Imperial Edict No. 41. This document explains that Ulleungdo, Jukdo, and Seokdo (aka Dokdo) are a part of Uldo County. The edict calls the island “Seokdo”, meaning rock island; however, Koreans that lived in Jeolla Province called the island “Dokdo”. Dok is the way that people in the Jeolla Province pronounce the Korean word for rock. 

This was later changed in 1906. Korean officials felt the need to issue this decree because Japanese fishermen continued to illegally enter the territories surrounding the islands. However, the Japanese declared that Dokdo was not a part of any country. This excuse was used to “legally” annex the island five years later in 1905. When the Sino-Japanese War ended, they added Dokdo in the peace treaty as a part of their land, naming it “Takeshima”. They did not inform South Korea of this decision, but when a Uldo county magistrate, named Shim Hung Taek, learned of this occupation in March of 1906, he alerted Yi Mong Rae, the governor of Gangwon Province. Yi then reported the situation to the central government, who ended up releasing Directive No. 3, which countered the claim that Dokdo was Japan’s. But the issue was never taken up on the international stage.

From 1910 to 1945, Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula, and all of Korean territory belonged to Japan. When the Japanese surrendered to the Allied Powers in 1945, they were forced to give up all the land that they had taken unfairly. SCAPIN-677, an order by the Allied Powers explicitly stipulates that Dokdo is excluded from the list of islands that belongs to Japan. Another directive, SCAPIN-1033, also prohibits Japan from going 12 miles near Dokdo. The Treaty of San Francisco states that:

Japan claims that because Dokdo was not explicitly stated in the treaty, it still belonged to Japan. However, the treaty does not include the island of Ulleungdo (an island near Dokdo), and it is recognized by the Japanese as Korean territory. The Cairo Declaration that President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and General Chiang Kai Shek signed in November of 1943, states that they would fight a war in order to return all the land that Japan had taken “by violence and greed.” Dokdo was unfairly annexed by Japan, and needs to be recognized that it is a part of Korea’s land.

Until Dokdo is recognized by the world as Korean territory, the Korean government and people will continue to spread the truth to the globe: “Dokdo is Our Land.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.