Korea-Japan Reconciliation and the Dokdo (Takeshima) Issue

Authored by: Seokwoo Lee , Hee Eun Lee

Routledge Handbook of Memory and Reconciliation in East Asia

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415835138
eBook ISBN: 9780203740323
Adobe ISBN: 9781135009212

10.4324/9780203740323.ch17

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Abstract

Located in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), Dokdo (Takeshima)1 is a group of rocky islets that are 87.4 kilometers (km) from the Korean island of Ulleungdo and 157 km from the Oki Islands of Japan at N 37°14”, E 131°52”.2 Formed from volcanic activity, Dokdo is comprised of two large rocky masses that are referred to by Korea as Dongdo (East Island) and Seodo (West Island), which are surrounded by thirty-two smaller outcroppings. Dokdo has a mere total area of 180,902 m2. This relatively small feature in the waters between Japan and Korea has been the source of a bitter territorial conflict between the two neighboring countries which has intensified greatly since President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the islets on August 10, 2012. In response, the Japanese government raised the national profile of Takeshima and renewed calls for the issue to be resolved by the International Court of Justice.3 While the Dokdo issue can largely be described as an international legal matter that can be resolved by recourse to the principles of international law and through the means of peaceful conflict resolution employed in international relations, reconciliation between Japan and Korea in regard to Dokdo involves complex historical, political, and legal issues that are intertwined and indeed made its prospects more difficult because it is representative of the problem of deep-rooted historical bitterness in the region resulting from the legacy of Japanese militarism and colonialism that continues to divide East Asia today.4 Any attempt at reconciliation between the two sides will necessarily have to address these underlying factors that exacerbate the issue.

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