Yeah. It's in the news again.
Seoul Slams Tokyo over Dokdo
During the World Cup, 2006, I was talking about the Korea/Japan rivalry with a mixed crowd of Korean and Western friends. I jokingly said, "Korea and Japan should play a soccer game, and the winner gets Dokdo!" My Western friends all laughed.
My Korean coworker looked at me with a sour, hairy eyeball, and emphatically answered: "But Dokdo is ours." Wasn't a single bit funny to her. In fact, it pissed her right off.
Koreans take this pretty seriously: if you're new in Korea, you will underestimate how seriously. Be warned. Eggshells, my Korean-adult-teaching friends. Eggshells.
From the Korea Herald's March 20th editorial:
"Recognition of the status quo of Dokdo should be the starting point of any new "partnership" between Korea and Japan."Translation: "We're willing to let Dokdo become the pyre on which we immolate diplomatic relations with Japan. It's that important to us." (To English teachers: that means they're also willing to let it be the sticking point on which they decide to hate you. It's that incendiary an issue. Korea needs Japan more than they need you, dear conversation teacher friend, and they're ready to make a fuss there, too.)
Personally, I have only two things to say about Dokdo:
1. As with the recent American Beef fiasco, the question to ask is, "Who benefits if people behave as predicted?" -- with American beef, it was pretty easy to spot the Korean beef lobby and the left-wing anti-FTA hand in the media glove, and they aren't even hiding that any more. Roh Moo-hyun's old buddies are having a field day taking shots at Lee Myung-bak.
So. . .
When Korea gets upset about Dokdo, who benefits?
Nationalist Japanese politicians, who use video footage and reports of anti-Japanese demonstrations in Korea as evidence that "The whole world hates us. . . you need strong, nationalist leaders, like me, to protect Japan's interests!" That's who benefits. Nobody else wins.
That Korea responds so predictably, and emphatically, to the slightest provocation on this topic, means that Dokdo is now their go-to issue when they need to scare up some support. Think about it.
The fact Koreans look foolish internationally (and they do) when reports like this get on the news is just a bonus for them. This image was published on BBC's webpage in 2005, with the caption, "Protesters burn posters of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during a rally against Japan's sovereignty claims over South Korea's Dokdo isles, in Seoul": the world is watching.Koreans are being manipulated, and the tin pot is so hot they don't notice that they're being played for fools by some cagey Japanese politicians.
2. I don't know enough about this situation to make any stance (and fear to do so, given Gary Bevers' experience), so instead, I'll say this:
Given Comfort Women (here and here), Goguryeo (here, here and here) and Dokdo/Takashima/Liancourt Rocks (here and here), the Nanjing Massacre (here and here), among other less-publicized things, it has become clear to me that China, Korea, and Japan all have startlingly different versions of the history of East-Asia. These conflicting histories are leading to controversies, and becoming politicized, rallying-points for unhealthy, ugly nationalism in each country (more pictures of protests). In the interest of finding a common ground and moving into the future, and to avoid further politically motivated distortions of history; in the hope of healthier intra-Asian relations, that are unhampered by historical grievances and disagreements, it is obvious that . . .
East Asia needs to form an international team of historians and scholars (no politicians), and write an apolitical history of East Asia. That's right. Get together a mixed group of Asia historians from China, Japan, Korea, as well as other countries, let each filter out the others' agendas, go back to the primary sources, and write an objective, non-politicized, (as) undistorted (as possible, given that historians are humans too) history of East Asia, and then agree together that all countries in question will hold to, and teach this propaganda-free history, and approach historical disagreements a little more rationally than has been happening so far.
That's my piece. I'm done on the topic, and frankly, tired of talking about it.
P.S.: Territorial disputes can be resolved peacefully. This territorial dispute between Ecuador and Peru was the cause of several wars, and still got resolved by diplomacy, in the end.