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Japan Proposes “Takeshima Day” Ordinance

Posted February. 24, 2005 16:43,   


At 11:03 a.m. on February 23, applause broke out at the Matsue Municipal Council in Shimane Prefecture, Japan.

It was immediately after an congressman from the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party introduced an ordinance specifying that February 22 be selected as “Takeshima (Dokdo) Islets Day.” Though a formal review and voting process is still pending, 35 of the 38 assemblymen are in favor of the ordinance, predicting its installation. A source at the secretariat of the Shimane Prefect Assembly stated “the bill will be voted on March 19 after a review.”

The hundred or so inhabitants of Shimane Prefecture, which included Dokdo as its territory starting in 1905, watched the moment the proposal was introduced. Two men in their twenties smiled as they rose and said “It would have been better if the ordinance had been introduced yesterday (February 22), in commemoration of the 100th anniversary.”

In contrast to the heated atmosphere of the Assembly, the mood of the city was lukewarm. The billboard at the prefecture building announced the territorial rights of Dokdo, but no signs in the stations and bus terminals in the city addressed the issue.

When a taxi driver was informed of the news, he said “That’s why the those cars with blaring noises were all around the city,” and “instead of causing more trouble with Korea, the assemblymen should just concentrate on the economy.”

North Gyeongsang Province, which has formed sister ties with Shimane Prefecture in October 1989 and had an active exchange of public officials, announced a statement pronouncing its regret that “it was an act that is contradictory to the spirit of exchange in the Year of Korea-Japan Friendship.”

North Gyeongsang Province vowed to halt all forms of exchange until the Shimane Prefecture produces a formal apology, called back its public officials located in Shimane Prefecture, and ordered public officials from Shimane in Gyeongbuk to stop reporting to work. The Korean government commented through Lee Kyu-hyung, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, stating that “it is an invasion of sovereignty when Dokdo is undoubtedly our territory as evidenced by historical records, geographical proximity, and through international law,” and that “we strongly request the disposal of the ordinance proposal.” The comment further stated that “The Korean government questions whether Japan truly wants an improvement of relations between Korea and Japan,” and that “we will take all measures to protect our sovereign rights over Dokdo.”

Hun-Joo Cho Sung-Jin Choi hanscho@donga.com choi@donga.com