Monday, August 11, 2008

Korean Affairs

"The Japanese have United the People!"

I haven’t commented on Korean related foreign affairs in some time, and a great deal has happened since the anti-American beef protests a few months back. During the beef import spat, I had a friend tell me that I need just wait for Japan to do something nationalistic, and that it would effectively end anti-American marches and focus Korea’s attention on its historical foe.

My friend was 100% correct, and a territorial battle got underway over some small worthless rocks in the sea between Korea and Japan called Dokdo Island, which has been a contentious issue between Japan and Korea since the end of the Second World War. Part of the dispute has to do with how you interpret Japan’s renunciation of sovereignty (through papers such as the Rusk documents) over land they acquired through imperialism and conquest; Korea argues that Dokdo is historically Korean territory, and thus was rightfully returned to them at the end of the War. Japan argues that the islands are Japanese land, and are not included in the territory conquered and then relinquished after the war.

Like most territorial issues between old colonial powers and their former surrogates, this one brings out a blistering nationalist response from folks in both countries. So when the Foreign Minister of Japan claimed the island belonged to Japan, Korea’s collective attention turned away from the beef protests that had unfortunately crippled the government for months.
“A document on the website of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, reportedly posted earlier this year, claims that the Dokdo Islets, or Takeshima in Japanese, belong to Japan.

The controversial document, entitled "10 Issues of Takeshima", is available in English, Korean and Japanese in a section called "The Issue of Takeshima" on the ministry's official website ( area/takeshima).
Dated February 2008, the document claims that Takeshima is "clearly" Japanese territory from the standpoint of both history and international law. It says South Korea is illegally occupying the islands, against which Japan has been consistently protesting.”

The Japanese didn’t back down to Korean threats and the pulling of their diplomats from Japan, and announced new guidelines for school teachers that effectively state Tokyo's territorial claim to Dokdo.

Initially, the United States attempted to stay out of the issue, but the Bush administration opted to siding with the Korean government and argued that the territory did belong to Korea. The Board on Geographic Names under the U.S. Geological Survey changed the entry for Dokdo on its database from “undesignated sovereignty” to “South Korea.” The Japanese argued that this did not deter them, but the move effectively ended the crisis. Lee Dong Kwan, a government spokesperson said, “The exceptionally swift measure reflects President George W. Bush's full understanding of the South Korean public sentiment and the deep trust and friendship between the leaders of the two countries."

So when I traveled to Seoul to check out protests concerning beef imports, I was pleasantly surprised to see a small contingent of hardcore activists from the communist left in Korea as the only remaining protesters for this issue. They marched around with banners adorned with big red fists, and looked generally saddened that their revolution was not going to come. Beef imports have resumed, and are apparently selling well among the Korean population.

Over at the ROK Drop, they have been exposing the groups behind these protests for some time now, and some of the recent developments have only verified their original assessment. The same old groups, that have verifiable ties to North Korea, have orchestrated the entire event from the start, and have used beef imports to disarm and overthrow the Lee administration that had pushed for a harder line on North Korea.


NeoConstant said...

I would like to cross-post this to NeoConstant if you don't mind. Let me know. I'm hoping for a wider range of international topics, and this happy end to a silly protest is definitely worth spreading. You don't hear much about Korea here in the States...

Roland Dodds said...

Ed, let me fix it up and add some more background, and I’ll send it over to NeoConstant.

Thanks again.

NeoConstant said...

Any time you'd like added exposure on one of your pieces feel free. Always an interesting take on the issues.