Posted by: rbbadger | July 29, 2008

독도는 우리 땅! (Dokdo Our Land — Part The Second)

Well, the US Bureau on Geographic Names has seriously angered the President of Korea, the whole Korean government, and many other people here.  A few weeks ago, the Japanese Education Ministry, in their new guidelines for textbooks, decided to once again advance their claim that Dokdo, the small mostly uninhabited islands off of the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula are Japanese territory and that their name is Takeshima.  Anyhow, this has greatly angered the Korean government and people.  Protests, some involving clubbing pheasants (national bird of Japan) over the head with hammers and flinging the carcasses onto the lawn of the embassy, took place. 

The US Bureau on Geographic Names has taken Dokdo out of its list of things belonging to Korea’s sovereign territory and placed it in an area of undesignated sovereignity.  Anyhow, the Ambassador to the USA is under fire.  An investigation is afoot to see what he knew about the proposed change in status and if so, why he didn’t do anything about it.  Most likely, he will lose his job.  Additionally, the minister for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) is likely to be fired because of this debacle and the debacle involving Japanese textbooks.

Why that US government agency chose to make its change now is beyond me.  We had a huge spate of anti-American protests recently.  Why now?  Why at all?

The Japanese are not well liked in this part of the world.  They are definitely not liked in South Korea and in China.  The Japanese did awful and terrible things.  The brunt of Japanese cruelty fell on South Korea, as more Korean women than from anywhere else were forced into prostitution to service Japanese troops.  However, we cannot forget the terrible, awful things they did to China, too.  The massacred the city of Nanjing and conducted experiments on chemical weapons involving Chinese people. 

For the record, I side with Korea on the control of Dokdo.  It was historically part of Korean territory before the Japanese invasion and should remain so.



  1. Well, in the BGN’s defense, their “update” simply reflects the longstanding U.S. policy of refusing to take a position on the ownership of Dokdo.

    On the other hand, when you go from taking a position to not taking one, people are bound to notice and draw conclusions—particularly given the timing.

    You mention the timing of this change, questioning why it would be undertaken in the wake of the anti-American protests. Your question may be its own answer. Korea cannot expect to treat an ally the way it recently has and avoid any consequences. “Corrections” such as this, “unforeseeable delays” in processing visa applications… nation-states have many ways of expressing displeasure with one another, few of them as overt as diplomatic discourse.

  2. Hey, Steve or Rob, e-mail me (

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