Cornell University Professor Mark Selden attended a 2-day symposium on Dokdo at the Yeongnam University Dokdo Research Center in Korea from May 13 to 14. On his way home, he apparently stopped in Tokyo where he had THIS INTERVIEW with a JPNews reporter. According to the Korean translation of the interview, Professor Selden said that Japan's sovereignty claim on "Dokdo" (Liancourt Rocks/Takeshima) was "shabby" and "based on violence and aggression."
Such comments suggest that Professor Mark Selden is either ignorant of the history of Liancourt Rocks or is pretending ignorance, which is disturbing since he is a Senior Research Associate in the East Asia Program at Cornell University and a Coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
The following is my translation of Professor Selden's response when asked his opinion of Japan's sovereignty claim on "Dokdo" (Liancourt Rocks/Takeshima). Remember that this is a translation and may not be Professor Selden's exact words:
Japan's incorporation of Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima) was not based on violence and aggression. Liancourt Rocks was never Korean territory, nor anyone else's territory in 1905, and Koreans did not even know about the incorporation until the Japanese mentioned it to the Ulleungdo county magistrate a year after it happened, so how can the professor say it was based on violence and aggression?
What do you think of Japan’s sovereignty claim on Dokdo?
This is my personal opinion, but Japan’s claim of sovereignty is very shabby. The one in the favorable position now is Korea. The reason is that Korea now occupies Dokdo. That is, Korea is currently in control of Dokdo. Japan, of course, wants this control, but for a number of reasons is unable to exercise it. Therefore, related to this, Korea is in the position of having several advantages.
First is the fact that Korea has control of Dokdo. Second is because Japan’s claim of ownership is based on its 1905 invasion of the Korean peninsula. Essentially, it can be said that Japan’s occupation of Dokdo was the first step of the invasion.
Therefore, I can understand why Korea is taking such a hard-line attitude and why it has to show such an attitude. The Japanese claim is built on violence and aggression, which is why it can be said to be weaker than Korea’s.
However, even though Japan's claim is shabby and weak, these days, a time after its colony, the problem should be viewed more broadmindedly and understood from a broad standpoint and discussed.
- 일본의 독도 소유권 주장을 어떻게 생각하시는지요?
"개인적인 생각이지만, 일본의 소유권에 대한 주장은 매우 허술합니다. 현재 유리한 입장에 있는것은 한국인데, 그 이유는 한국이 현재 독도를 점거하고 있다는 것입니다. 즉 독도의 현 지배권이 한국에 있다는 것이지요. 일본 역시 이 지배권을 원하지만 여러가지 이유 때문에 행동으로 옮기진 못하고 있고, 그렇기 때문에 한국은 이건에 관련해선 여러가지 유리한 입장에 서있습니다.
일단 첫번째는 현재 독도의 지배권을 가지고 있다는 사실이고, 두번째는 일본의 독도 소유권에 대한 주장은 1905년의 한반도 침략에 기반되어 있기 때문입니다. 실질적으로 독도의 점령은 침략의 제 1보라고 할수 있었죠.
그렇기 때문에 한국이 이 문제에 대해 왜 이렇게 강경한 태도를 보이고 있는지, 또한 이런 태도를 보여야만 하는지도 알수 있습니다. 일본의 주장은 폭력과 침략을 기반으로 만들어져 있으며 그렇기에 한국의 주장보다 약하다고 할수 있습니다.
하지만 일본이 주장이 허술하고 약하다고 해도 오늘날의 식민지 이후의 시대에선 조금 더 관대로운 시선으로 문제를 바라보며 더 넓은 관점에서 이해하며 토론해야 한다고 생각합니다."
Professor Selden also said the following:
Again, judging from the above comment, Professor Selden seems to be ignorant of the history because the United States made it very clear, at least to the Koreans, that Liancourt Rocks was Japanese territory. This is what Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk wrote to the Korean ambassador to the United States in an August 10, 1951 letter:
In 1905, Japan and the United States made the Katsura-Taft Agreement, where they agreed to Japan's occupying Korea and the United States' the Philippines. Also, in 1945, the United States hinted that it was of their opinion that Dokdo was Korean territory. However, at the time of the San Francisco Treaty (1951), its previous opinion changed and it took a vague, neutral position on which country's territory it was and on where the boundaries of each country ended.
"1905년 일본과 미국은 가츠라 태프트 조약을 맺어, 일본은 한국을, 그리고 미국은 필리핀의 점령에 동의하였습니다. 그리고 1945년 미합중국은 독도가 한국의 영토라는 의견을 내비쳤습니다. 그러나 샌프란시스코 조약(1951) 때는 전의 의견과는 달리 독도가 어느 나라의 영토인지, 각 나라의 경계선이 어디서 끝나는지 확실히 하지 않는 등 중립적인 입장을 유지하였습니다.
"As regards the island of Dokdo, otherwise known as Takeshima or Liancourt Rocks, this normally uninhabited rock formation was according to our information never treated as part of Korea and, since about 1905, has been under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch of Shimane Prefecture of Japan. The island does not appear ever before to have been claimed by Korea...."In a November 14, 1952 letter to E. Allan Lightener Jr., the Charge d'affaires at the American Embassy in Pusan, Kenneth Young, the Director of Northeast Asian Affairs at the US State Department, wrote the following:
It appears that the Department has taken the position that these rocks belong to Japan and has so informed the Korean Ambassador in Washington. During the course of drafting the Japanese Peace Treaty the Republic of Korea's views were solicited, in consequence of which, the Korean Ambassador requested the Secretary of State in a letter of July 19, 1951 to amend Article 2(a) of the draft treaty so as to include the islands of Dokdo (Liancourt Rocks) and Parangdo as well as Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet among those islands over which Japan would renounce right, title and claim by virtue of recognizing Korea's independence. In his reply to the Korean Ambassador the Secretary stated in a letter dated August 10, 1951 that the United States could not concur in the proposed amendment as it applied to the Liancourt Rocks since according to his information the Liancourt Rocks had never been treated as a part of Korea, they had been under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch Office of Japan's Shimane Prefecture since 1905 and it did not appear that they had ever before been claimed by Korea. As a result Article 2(a) of the Treaty of Peace with Japan makes no mention of the Liancourt Rocks:"Japan, recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all
right, title, and claim to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port
Hamilton and Dagelet."
The action of the United States-Japan Joint Committee in designating these rocks as a facility of the Japanese Government is therefore justified. The Korean claim, based on SCAPIN 677 of January 29, 1946, which suspended Japanese administration of various island areas, including Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks), did not preclude Japan from exercising sovereignty over this area permanently. A later SCAPIN, No. 1778 of September 16, 1947 designated the islets as a bombing range for the Far East Air Force and further provided that use of the range would be made only after notification through Japanese civil authorities to the inhabitants of the Oki Islands and certain ports on Western Honsu.In response to the above letter, E. Allan Lightner, Jr. wrote the following in a December 4, 1952 letter.
I much appreciate your letter of November 14 in regard to the status of the Dokdo Island (Liancourt Rocks). The information you gave us had never been previously available to the Embassy. We had never heard of Dean Rusk’s letter to the Korean Ambassador in which the Department took a definite stand on this question. We of course knew of the ROK Government’s desire to have Article 2(a) of the Peace Treaty amended to include Dokdo and Parangdo and conveyed that request in a telegram to the Department at that time, along with other ROK suggestions for amendments to the draft treaty. We were subsequently made aware of the fact that Article 2(a) was not to be amended but had no inkling that that decision constituted a rejection of the Korean claim. Well, now we know and we are very glad to have the information as we have been operating on the basis of wrong assumption for a long time.In a July 22, 1953 letter to E. Allan Lightner of the American Embassy in Pusan, entitled "Possible methods of Resolving Liancourt Rocks Dispute Between Japan and the Republic of Korea," L. Burmaster of the Office of U.S. Northeast Asian Affairs wrote the following:
I am sending with a transmitting despatch, a copy of the note that we have just sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which includes as a final paragraph the wording suggested in the Department’s telegram no.365 of November 27 and which refers to Dean Rusk’s note to Ambassador Yang of August 10, 1951.
With regard to the question of who has sovereignty over the Liancourt Rocks (which are also known in Japanese as Takeshima, and in Korean as Dokdo), it may be of interest to recall that the United States position, contained in a note to the Republic of Korea's Ambassador dated August 10, 1951 reads in part:In his "Van Fleet Mission" report, which was a report of his mission to the Far East between April 26 and August 7, 1954, Special Ambassador James A. Van Fleet wrote the following:
- "....As regards the island of Dokdo, otherwise known as Takeshima or Liancourt Rocks, this normally uninhabited rock formation was according to our information never treated as part of Korea and, since about 1905, has been under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch Office of Shimane Prefecture of Japan. The island does not appear ever before to have been claimed by Korea......"
(This position has never been formally communicated to the Japanese Government but might well come to light were this dispute ever submitted to mediation, conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement.)
Since sending the August 10, 1951 note to the ROK Government, the United States Government has sent only one additional communication on the subject. This was done in response to the ROK protest of the alleged bombing of Dokdo Island by a United States military plane. The United States note of December 4, 1952 states:"The Embassy has taken note of the statement contained in the Ministry's Note that 'Dokdo Island (Liancourt Rocks) .....is a part of the territory of the Republic of Korea.' The United States Government's understanding of the territorial status of this island was stated in Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk's note to the Korean Ambassador in Washington dated August 10,1951."
At the same time this note was sent it was hoped that this mere reiteration of our previously expressed views would withdraw us from the dispute and might discourage the Republic of Korea from "intruding a gratuitous issue in the already difficult Japan-Korean negotiations." Apparently our efforts to date have not had the desired effect.
4. Ownership of Dokto IslandDoes Professor Selden not know about the above letters, or is he choosing to ignore them for some unknown reason? Regardless of his reasons, his comments in the interview are, at the very least, surprising and disappointing, considering his status as a professor at Cornell University.
The Island of Dokto (otherwise called Liancourt and Take Shima) is in the Sea of Japan approximately midway between Korea and Honshu (131.80E, 36.20N). This Island is, in fact, only a group of barren, uninhabited rocks. When the Treaty of Peace with Japan was being drafted, the Republic of Korea asserted its claims to Dokto but the United States concluded that they remained under Japanese sovereignty and the Island was not included among the Islands that Japan released from its ownership under the Peace Treaty. The Republic of Korea has been confidentially informed of the United States position regarding the islands but our position has not been made public. Though the United States considers that the islands are Japanese territory, we have declined to interfere in the dispute. Our position has been that the dispute might properly be referred to the International Court of Justice and this suggestion has been informally conveyed to the Republic of Korea.
UPDATE: In an April 21, 2006 Yonhap News Korean article entitled, "'Survey of Dokdo's Neighboring Waters' is a Domestic Issue in Japan," Professor Selden said the following
Professor Selden said, "According to the historical record I have read, Korea's Dokdo sovereignty claim has a very strong basis, but Japan's claim is provocative." Then he said, "Korea not only has a strong historical basis for sovereignty since Silla times, but it also has occupanied Dokdo since independence."The above statements are more evidence of just how one-sided and shallow Professor Selden's understanding of the history is. There is no evidence that Koreans ever traveled to Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima) before Japanese fishing boats started taking them there in the early 1900s, and the islets do not appear on any of Korea's old maps by any name. Professor Selden seems to be a victim of Korean propaganda. He also seems to be too busy or lazy to do adequate, independent research, which is surprising considering his being so outspoken on the issue.
셀든 교수는 "내가 읽은 역사적 기록에 따르면 독도에 대한 한국의 영유권 주장은 매우 근거가 강하지만 일본의 주장은 도발"이라면서 "한국은 신라시대부터 독도 영유권에 대한 강한 역사적 근거를 갖고 있을 뿐만아니라 독립이후 현재까지 독도를 점유해왔다"고 말했다.