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‘Big trees chopped off by Japanese that invaded Ulleung Island,’ says Russian interpreter

‘Big trees chopped off by Japanese that invaded Ulleung Island,’ says Russian interpreter

Posted July. 17, 2019 07:59,   

Updated July. 17, 2019 07:59


“The marks of axes left on tree trunks were the evidence of Japanese plunder. Mountains that used to be covered with tall trees from their foot to top are now becoming barren at the axes of Japanese.”

The above is from the investigative report of Ulleung Island written by Lebedev who was in his third year at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia and worked as an interpreter for a Russian military transport ship in September 1903. The Korean Empire tried to stop Japanese’ illegal habitation and lumbering by setting the imperial order No. 41 to raise the position held by the head of Ulleung Island but damage continued. “Tall trees over five times the length of an adult’s two arms spread out could not be found. Tree stumps left in valleys show the aftermath of Japanese pillage.”

Kim Yeong-soo, a researcher at the Dokdo Research Institute of the Northeast Asian History Foundation, recently published a book titled “Duality of Empires: Korea, Japan, and Russia surrounding Dokdo Island in Modern History,” which focuses on how Japan and Russia viewed and tried to invade Ulleung Island and Dokdo Island of South Korea. “The two empires protected the economic activities and interests of their own fishermen and merchants while using them as a tool for a military invasion,” Kim said.

Russia obtained deforestation permit in 1896 and investigated the forests and landscape of Ulleung Island on multiple occasions as a strategic foothold in the East Sea in preparation for the Russo-Japanese War. The 1903 investigation in which Lebedev participated was part of such efforts.

Lebedev also recorded conflicts between local Korean residents and illegally inhabiting Japanese in Ulleung Island. The report said there were about 2,500 Koreans and 180 Japanese living on the island and added, “Japanese look down on Koreans. Two or three armed Japanese people who showed up to a Korean home handled its household items as their own and used violence. Japanese even illegally set up a police station at the Dodong port.”

“Japanese could not stand up to Koreans because they didn’t have bullets. Passing a Korean home, Japanese avoided the gaze of Koreans and turned their face to the other side,” Lebedev also said in the report. “This is a part that captured a secret desire by Japanese who wanted to kick out Koreans, who prohibited their illegal logging, and entirely occupy Ulleung Island,” Kim explained.

Jong-Yeob JO jjj@donga.com