Sunday, May 18, 2008

Claiming Dokdo as Takeshima equals claiming Seoul as Gyeongseong

According to the Chosun Ilbo, from 2012, "all social studies textbooks for middle school students will have to describe the Dokdo Islets, or Takeshima in Japanese, as Japanese territory"*.

Again**, Dokdo Islets are Korean territories, and even the Japanese government told so in the late XIXth century. Dokdo has been under the Japanese flag only during the Occupation, and the "Takeshima" claims are purely driven by the neofascist revival in the archipelago.

The vast majority of Japanese people are not claiming Dokdo / Takeshima. The core of the debate is not between Korea and Japan but between today's Japan and yesterday's Japan. And the key question is : which Japan will rule in the future ?

Actually, saving Dokdo is about saving Japan.

Epidermic reactions in Korea are exactly what these warmongers want : it ridicules all their other claims of restoration of the truth regarding the darkest face of the Showa rule (ie comfort women). And the contrast with the silent and indifferent Japanese people is striking. Actually, it is more ignorance than indifference : German kids know much more about Nazism than Japanese adults about the atrocities caused by the facist regime that ruled the region during the first half of last century.

It's up to the Japanese people to decide : allow those warmongers to set the diplomatic agenda and rewrite textbooks for the next generations, or continue on their peaceful path. But to ensure the latter choice, they must at last face the sometimes troubled history of their beautiful country.

Here are the actual historical facts :

1) Indeed, Dokdo happened to be Japanese in the past, but only during the occupation. Japan first claimed Dokdo a few months ahead of the 1905 invasion, via the Shimane Prefecture (so that the anschluss would be considered a international aggression). So if Japan claims Dokdo, it must also claim the whole Korean peninsula. When you consider both the Korean propaganda regarding Dokdo and the Japanese propaganda regarding Takeshima, the former has an historic perspective over 2 millenia and a great part of the proofs are actually Japanese documents, while the latter focuses on the XXth century, avoiding the crucial issue of the Japanese Occupation of Korea.

2) Japanese ultranationalists are basically racist : they consider themselves the superior race, the one that preceded all others, and doesn't owe anything to anyone. They deny any influence of China or Korea in the development of the Archipelago, and d
uring the Occupation of Korea, they were particularily violent and eager to annihilate the Korean culture and identity***. Forcing name changes was a key element in a cultural genocide planned from the start. Japan renamed Dokdo "Takeshima" in 1905, and like all the names changed during the occupation period ended with WWII, Korea restored the original name after the independance****.

3) What's in a name ? Significantly enough, Dokdo means "remote island" in Korean, which reflects the difficulty for this country to defend this couple of rocks far away from its mainland. Significantly enough, Takeshima means "bamboo island" in Japanese, which seems absurd considering the fact that not much can grow on these rocky islets but piles of guano. On the other hand, the name makes perfect sense if you know how bamboo reproduces : by its very name, "Takeshima", perfectly symbolizes the first implantation of imperial Japan on Korean soil during the 1905 wave (Dokdo was the first piece of land conquerred, the first outgrowth of the glorious Showa era in Korea). So when Tokyo's hardliner revisionists claim Dokdo as Takeshima nowadays, it is exactly the same as if they claimed Seoul as Gyeongseong-bu (its degraded name under the Occupation).

4) Japan's claims leverage on the fact that Dokdo was not mentioned in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, but Dokdo was mentioned as Korean in the initial versions. The US switched to a Japanese "Takeshima" in december 1949 drafts before avoiding any mention in the final version. The ephemeral attribution to Japan was due to lobbying, but also to the fear that Korea could fall in communist hands. But then the US realized they would be exposed to condemnations by international tribunals. Thus the final pat. Anyway, this Treaty didn't solve anything : neither China nor Korea were present, and no Japanese war crime was mentioned.

5) Actually, this is the core of the problem : unlike Germany, Japan never faced its own history. The reason ? The US and Japan sealed an unwritten pact after Hiroshima and Nagasaki : Japanese war criminals were never charged, the Emperor remained at the top, and Japan never accused the US for the use of nuclear weapons against civilians. And oh, Japan was forced to embrace democracy and peace.

6) Now that the last WWII survivors are disappearing, neofascist movements in Japan try to seize the opportunity and change the diplomatic agenda. Dokdo is only part of a vast revisionist scheme, where education is of course the key to the next generations.

Japan faces a crossroads : either it follows these warmongers and lets them rewrite history books, or it decides to stay
on the path of peace and to let its people know what really happened during its darkest period.

It is time for the Japanese people to realize that such revisionism is meant to fuel nationalism across the region and force the return of warmongers at the helm of countries that either evolved towards democracy (Japan, Korea...) or may one day take that path (China is definitely contributing to this unfortunate trend, claiming the Koguryo culture*****).

It is time for the Japanese moderates aware of the dangers to wake up and expose these impostures.

It is time for the Japanese people to make revisionism illegal and, in order to succeed in this much needed task, to elect lawmakers that truly work for the good of their own country.

It's high time for Japan to cope with its past and, just like Germany, to teach its children an accurate and fair vision of history.

Seoul Village 2008

* "
Japanese Textbooks to Repeat Dokdo Claim" (20080519)
** see "
Red blogule to Japan's neofascists - forget Takeshima and Mandchukuo" and "Blogule rouge aux Jeunesses Japonaises - idees et chemises noires" (20060502), "Blogule blanc a Ban Ki-moon - drapeau blanc sur Dokdo" (20060420) "Red blogule to Japan - No UN Council seat for an Unrepentant Nation" and "Blogule rouge au Japon - Pas de siège au conseil de sécurité de l'ONU pour les révisionnistes" (20050410)
*** Nowadays, they use more subtle means and mostly focus on revisionism, trying to either destroy proofs or to forge new ones (ie fake archeological discoveries of ancient Japanese civilizations). Their recent remobilization has been fueled by the recent love affair between the two people : Japanese culture is popular in Korea (which stopped censoring cultural goods as a retaliation for the wartime atrocities), and many Japanese people started learning Korean to follow the dramas in their original versions (I wish they fell for better embassadors of Korean culture than Bae Young-june). Worse : the Emperor declared his friendship towards Korea and confirmed that part of his blood is Korean !
**** note that the "Sea of Japan" was never formally renamed "East Sea" (... not to mention "Sea of Korea"). That change (officialized in Monaco in 1929) was very important for ultranationalists : if the body of water on your Western shores is labeled "East Sea", how can your country claim it as its own ?
***** see "Red Blogule to China's revisionism - No to the Chinese cultural Anschluss" (20040901)

ADDENDUM 20091116

Japan decided to tell the truth by releasing the proof that Dokdo doesn't belong to them (see "According to Japanese law, Dokdo is not Japanese"). Change is at last coming to this great country (see "A Common History").



  2. One should also mention the official version of the Korean government, ie on

    (beyond the propaganda, insights on the reasons behind the 1904 claim of Dokdo by the Shimane Prefecture ahead of the 1905 invasion).

  3. at last one moderate voice to denounce Japan's nationalist tragedy (Kazuhiko Kimijima, a professor of history at Tokyo Gakugei University - in the Asahi Shimbun) :


Thank you for your comments and remarks. Also for your patience (comments are moderated and are not published right away - only way to curb the spam, sorry). S.

books, movies, music