Free «The Dokdo Issue» Essay
The Dokdo issue has a long history. Being located between Japan and Korea, the island represents one of the controversial topics in the relationship between Japan and Korea. To date, there is no consensus regarding the territorial ownership of the island. Each of the sides has their arguments that make the dispute a difficult and time-consuming process. Nevertheless, the solution to the problem is rather important. The dispute is not simply about territorial jurisdiction, but also about military, economic, and overall national interests, including national and cultural identity, which are extremely important for both Japan and Korea (Kim 5, 17). Despite the pendency of the problem, it makes sense to consider the Dokdo Island as belonging to Korea rather than to Japan. The study is based on the analysis of the historical and political background of the issue and pays attention to the fact that solid claims of the Japanese government in relation to the island emerged during the colonial policy of Japan.
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As researchers note, until 1905, the island was under the jurisdiction of Korea (Bae 20). Choi states that, “Koreans trace their title to Dokdo back to the sixth century and the records of Samguk Sagi, Korea's oldest history text” (Choi 466). At that time, the Korean government has fixed the territorial affiliation of the island. Over the next few centuries, the question of territorial ownership of the island had been solved using diplomatic ways of interaction between Japan and Korea. In 1869, Japan recognized that the island belonged to Korea, while Korea, in turn, allowed the Japanese government to use the island for their commercial interests (Choi 467).
However, since 1905, the situation has changed radically, and Korea faced Japan’s claims regarding the territorial ownership of the island. In fact, “the territorial issue over Dokdo between Korea and Japan dates to the early 1900s, when Japan began putting its plans to invade Korea into practice” (Bae 20). Japan started to defend the idea that the island belonged to it while Korea did not have any rights to it. As pointed out by researchers, the abrupt change in the relationship between Japan and Korea regarding the Dokdo issue had been associated with the imperialist and colonial policy of Japan (Bae 21). In fact, in the early 19th century, Japan was at war with Russia. Therefore, seizure of the island quite logically fit the colonial policy of Japan. In the beginning of the 19th century, Japan was interested in expanding its territory and obtaining additional resources in the form of natural resources and the labor force in the background of the Russo-Japanese War (Bae 22).
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The island was returned to Korea only in 1945, when Korea became an independent country (Bae 31). However, this fact was not the end of the dispute between Japan and Korea regarding the issue. In particular, the San Francisco Peace Treaty adopted by the international community after the Second World War did not put an end to the problem, since different versions depending on the current geopolitical situation did not give a clear position regarding the ownership of the island (Bae 34). Different countries that participated in the signing of the contract had their geo-political interests in mind, which influenced the complexity of the solution of the dispute.
The current situation in relations between Japan and Korea is characterized by a desire to preserve diplomatic relations. In April 2008, the two countries announced a course on a “new Era in Korea-Japan Relations” (Kim 2). However, it is worth noting the fact that each of the governments of Japan shows its certain attitude to the problem, which does not always have a positive impact on the cooperation between the two countries. In particular, before 2008, one could observe the tendency of improving relations between the two countries. However, “tensions ratcheted up when, on July 14, 2008, it became known that the teaching manual for a Japanese middle school social science textbook stated that Dokdo was a part of Japan” (Kim 3). This fact suggests that one way or another modern Japan demonstrates its rights to the island. Despite this claim, Korea seeks to maintain stable relations with Japan, while this situation indicates that the issue is rather complex and requires effective ways to be addressed (Kim 3).
As for participation of other countries and their help in resolving the issue, as history shows, they depend on their national and political interests as well as the preferences of their political leaders. In particular, considering the attitude of the United States to the issue, one can find, for example, that the country’s political leaders representing the Democratic Party have taken an ambiguous position on the Dokdo issue, contributing to the ongoing confrontation between Japan and Korea (Bae 38-39).
To sum up, the study of the Dokdo issue allows one to see its origins in the imperialist policy held by the Japanese government in the early 19th century. The complexity of the situation is caused by the fact that Japan continues to show signs of claims for ownership of the island. Japan and Korea, as shown by observations, have difficulties in unaided resolution of the issue. Therefore, the participation of the international community with the assistance of historians, sociologists, and political scientists is seen as one of the most effective ways to solve the problem. Completion of the debate is particularly important, as it affects various national interests of both countries. It is necessary to understand that the escalation of the conflict can lead to extremely negative consequences, including military confrontation and termination of diplomatic relations between the two countries.