South Korea and Japan’s Half-Century-Old Debate over Two Small, Nearly Barren Islets

by Owen James Burke


Above: The Liancourt Rock’s East Islet, taken from the West. Photo:

On August 15th, 1945, Korea obtained sovereignty  from Japan, and with it they reclaimed the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo in Korean, Takeshima in Japanese), a pair of islets lying between the two nations. The debate has been a relatively quiet one for decades, but lately, Japan wants them back.



The islands are 158 kilometers (about 100 miles) west of South Korea’s mainland and the same distance to the east from Okinoshima, Japan’s nearest inhabited island, however none of the 1,200 fishermen living their have ever been to the rocks, which were once fertile hunting grounds for seals and abalone.


Above: A South Korean propaganda poster. Image:

Japan annexed the Korean peninsula and the islets in 1905 and held them until the end of World War II, while Korea claims the islands have been theirs for over 1,500 years. Since Korean control was officiated in 1954, debate over the Liancourt Rocks has been relatively quiet, as has their population. According to a Korean government website, only three civilians inhabit the island — a poet, a fisherman and his wife, along with about 30 police officers.

Now, while the seals have gone, Japan and Korea have their eyes on not only the fishing grounds, but the location’s natural gas deposits, a story told round the world.

Read more at — OJB


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