Sunday, March 20, 2005

Dokdo or Takeshima Islands?

Yet another argument has slowed the pace of burgeoning business ties between the nations of South Korea and Japan. A set of rocky islands between the two countries (geographically closer to Korea) have been claimed by both countries.

Right now there's a lot of saber-rattling going on, and very little is being articulated about each side's historical stake in the matter. The situation as it sits now is that the islands are occupied and watched over by Korean citizens. Shimane prefecture has upped the ante by declaring a 'Takeshima Day' starting next year. Protests in Korea have been particularly emotional: several people have cut off fingers, and at least one person has lit himself on fire, in public condemnation of the acts taken up by the government in Japan. The Korean protesters liken 'Takeshima Day' to yet another invasion of their country. The citizens of Japan don't seem to be protesting very much, and the Japanese media seems a little less prone to publishing facts about their claim to the group of islands.

One important point is that the islands are surrounded by some rich fishing waters. Furthermore, the seabed beneath that area is said to be rich in natural gases. As you can see, these things usually come down to money.

At this point in the game, the South Korean government is holding a commanding lead. Aside from forcibly removing the armed guards from the islands, and sinking the patrol ships that circle the area 24 hours a day, there is little that Japan can do to gain control of the situation. As usual, we would all benefit from a whole lot more talking.

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