Monday, July 28, 2008


You win some, you lose some; how it looks depends on where you’re coming from—Tokyo, or...

Toronto? Incidentally, I can’t reach the GEOnet Names Server (GNS). Could it be under a denial-of-service attack? Let us know if you get through.


Michael Reimer said...

Interesting. I was paying some attention to this issue after my wife mentioned it, but didn't know about the local connection (to Toronto, that is). The term "Korean studies librarian" from the article is a bit misleading though - there is no Korean studies library here, to my knowledge. There is an East Asian library including Chinese, Korean, and Japanese materials, and I assume that's what they meant. Tsk tsk. I wonder how Hana Kim's relationship with her colleagues has been affected.

Jun Okumura said...

Librarians tend to be liberal in their outlook, so my guess is that Ms. Kim’s East Asia colleagues, even a Japanese national, will by and large have sympathy for Korea on history issues. Last year’s outburst over the comfort women issue will have reinforced this tendency. So, no, I don’t think that she will have problems at her workplace. If anyone does complain, she’s likely to tell them that she did everything on her own time, at home, over the weekend. Some of her actions may have been taken as the chair of the Committee on Korean Materials under the Council of East Asian Libraries. If so, her professionalism could be called into question. But that is an internal disciplinary issue for the CEAL, a voluntary organization of individual professionals.

There are several issues of interest for me here. First, none of the articles gives any indication of Ms. Kim’s citizenship (her name is variously given as Hana Kim and Kim Ha-na), but at least some of the ethnic Koreans who responded to her call are likely to be Canadian or American citizens. Now, perhaps it is not surprising that ethnicity impacts one’s approach towards public policy. But here in Japan, it is something that I suspect will affect the thinking of people who are uncommitted on the question of enfranchising permanent residents for local elections. There were some sizeable pockets of Korean nationals who are permanent residents in the Kansai area when I lived there. I wonder if that has changed.

Second, the reports imply that she did it without using the resources of the University of Toronto. But were the other Korean librarians as careful? Remember, if a librarian uses his/her professional email account, he/she could very well be using the server at the library (or the parent organization thereof). That could open the door to disciplinary action.

Third, employment of non-nationals and its limits in the public sector has been a sensitive issue in Japan. The doors have been opened wider over the years, so I’m sure that there must be a few Korean nationals working in public libraries here. You wonder whether professionalism will triumph over ethnic imperatives if and when the occasion arises.

Finally, it is hard not to believe that both cases (as well the FAA nomenclature issue) are the result of the Japanese authorities pleading its case with the relevant institutions. The fact of the matter is, there is a genuine territorial dispute, so the Japanese side wants public authorities worldwide to treat the matter accordingly. That, on the face of it, is a very reasonable position. The Korean attitude appears to be total denial of the opposite side, a denial that the dispute even exists. I recognize the emotion behind it, and it does work where the International Court of Justice is concerned—no mandatory jurisdiction here—but not in the international court of public opinion. Koreans should be glad that the dispute is, in the great picture of things, trivial—for Japan, for the rest of the world. said...

Dokdo Takeshima is a trivial issue for Japan?

That's the front Japan's MOFA puts up. Yet, they've been badgering Korea about these rocks for 60 years now and have methodically stepped up their lobby campaign over last few years.

It's pretty rich for any person who supports Japan's side of this problem to accuse the Koreans of "denial". Japan's whole case for Takeshima is built on her "denial" of the military-expansionist circumstances surrounding Japan's 1905 annexation of the islets.

No country, Korea or otherwise should allow any foreign organization to determine the territorial limits of her nation. This is an issue between Japan and Korea.

At any rate, the current boundary between Japan and Korea is quite fair. See the map below.


These days Japan's MOFA has even begun the distribution of incorrect maps to mislead the public. Japan, the worlds 2nd richest nation, with the worlds fifth largest EEZ (4,500,000 sq kms) trying to bully her way westward at the expense of Korea. It's pretty sad.


Jun Okumura said...

The Japanese case—like South Korea’s—is based on documents dating back to well before the administrative act in 1905. Denying the common documentary basis of our two proud nation’s claims and calling the Japanese appeals for the resolution of the dispute under rules and principles accepted and resorted to by civilized nations “badgering” dishonor your multi-millennial culture and its powerful ethos of law and order, and justice. Using words such as “fair” and “incorrect” and “mislead” do nothing to further your case; indeed, they merely expose the pathetically polemic and partisan nature of your arguments and only do harm to your efforts to woo international society to your cause.

But what is truly sad about your comments is the fact that you feel compelled to spend your precious downtime—unless you are a Moslem—on this a Sunday and your considerable English-language skills slapping a boilerplate denial on a three-week old post on a blog usually frequented only by a small—if highly informed and intelligent—group of people actually interested in my utterings, mainly but not exclusively about things Japan. You do, unlike me (at least today), have a life, don’t you? Believe me, we Japanese spend only a fraction of the time thinking about Korea that Koreans consume on Japan, and that is even truer with regard to Takeshima. (Wait, let me do an experiment here.) …with regard to Takeshima. Takeshima. Takeshima. Takeshima.

How did that last part feel? Not good, right? Now, as for me, you could use the D-word on every other line and each line in between on your blog (assume for the moment that you have one, entitled, say, AnonymousSouthKoreanNationalDefenseBlogger) and I assure you that I, like most Japanese, could care less.

There is no shame in being the lesser end of this asymmetry. I am sure that Americans care even less, proportionately, about Japan than we do about the United States, but we usually don’t let that bother us. It must be even more lopsided between Germany and Luxembourg, and I know for a fact that Luxembourgers (motto: We want to remain what we are) are a very happy people.

So I ask you, wouldn’t life be nicer for you to be quietly proud of your nation’s admirable post-WW II achievements and the success of your world-class businesses and pleased with the fact that it holds possession of those rocks, instead of putting up anonymous comments that have meaning only within your national echo chamber?

I’m being very generous with this last piece of advice, mind you, since it is to my personal advantage to have you keep coming to my blog. For it is comments like yours that make my funny bones crackle and pop with joy. For it is people like you that in their own small ways help make my day. said...

Jun, how noble of you to speak on behalf of "you" Japanese.

I've been following the Dokdo Takeshima dispute long enough to know, that nobody out there in cyberspace is lobbying harder than Japan's right wing lunatic fringe. So, this stereotype of the hot-blooded, irrational, nationalist Koreans vs indifferent, calm and civilized Japan doesn't wash for those of us who study the issue in detail.

There is nothing partisan nor polemic about my argument. Japan wants to apply a century-old land grab undertaken during the largest war of the day to re-annex 160 kms of East Sea (Sea of Japan)


I've posted a map above showing baseline measurements from nearest Japanese and Korea landfalls and islands from the disputed islands. If you have trouble wrapping your head around the concept that giving each nation an approximately equal amount of territory is fair, I feel sorry for you.

There are current maritime laws to deal with these border issues that already exist. None of these laws work in Japan's favor because Dokdo-Takeshima's geographical location would easily have the island fall under Korea's Ulleungdo Island's EEZ.

And what exactly is "my" nation? It seems you are making some serious assumptions here Mr Okumura. Horror of horrors I'm not Korean.

Japan has documents that are proof of territorial sovereignty before 1905? Please feel free to enlighten us all. I'd love to see them.

Japan has plenty of documentation of Liancourt Rocks. However, the records and maps either show a. The Japanese consistently excluded the islets from their territory.
b. The Japanese considered the rocks as appended to Chosun's Ulleungdo Island and thus part of Korea since ancient times.

You say we should allow the ICJ to "resolve this dispute using the rules and principles accepted and resorted to by civilized nations" The problem lies in that Japan's claim is based on 19th Century international law. These rules made by "civilized" nations over a century ago are the same laws used by Japanese to colonize the entire Korean peninsula. Laws like terra nullius which "allowed" the colonial powers (your Japan) seize lands from those deemed unenlightened.


Your requests to drag the Dokdo-Takeshima issue before the sacred halls of the ICJ ring pretty hollow as long as Japan's MOFA refuses to do the same on her other territorial disputes. You do know Japan has disputes with every one of her neighbours, right?

I don't know how anybody who supposedly worked for the Japanese government in a foreign affairs capacity would lack even a basic understanding of an issue that could ultimately erupt into a military confrontation between Japan and Korea. Then again, looking at how Japan whitewashes her past wartime atrocities I'm not very surprised.....sigh.

Funny bone cracking and popping? Maybe you've just snapped......

Jun Okumura said...

I don't do basic research for strangers, though I do come through for my friends.

Speaking of whom, dear (alarmingly large number of) liberal friends, let me know if there is anything worth responding to in the latest comment from "Steve Barber" said...

Mr Okumura.

The documents I've posted above are from Japan's own JACAR website showing the inseparability of Japan's Imperial Navy's need to install military watchtowers on Liancourt Rocks in the months prior to their 1905 annexation of Liancourt Rocks.


But don't worry. Japan's MOFA has an explanation. They say:

Japan's Shimane Prefecture incorporated Liancourt Rocks so a fisherman (who was squatting on Korea's Ulleungdo Island) could hunt seals there.


This was while 500,000 Japanese and Russian troops engaged in bloody trench warfare in Shenyang, (Mukden) besieged Port Arthur had just fallen, and Russia's Baltic Fleet was steaming around Madagascar, to engage Japan's Imperial Navy's Admiral Togo in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) in what would be the largest naval battle to the day (Battle of Tsushima)


Japan wants to use their 1905 incorporation as the basis for their claim to Liancourt Rocks. The outrageous part is that they want to ignore all of the historical, political and military circumstances that surround the annexation. They maintain this stance despite the fact their own documents record political officials like Yamaza Enjiro clearly stated it was necessary to incorporate the islets to build watch towers to monitor Russian naval activity in the East Sea (Sea of Japan)


We all know new territorial acquisitions must be part of a natural peaceful process, however Japanese Naval Records tell us otherwise.

Mr Okumura, when you look at the historical circumstances surrounding Japan's 1905 annexation of Liancourt Rocks perhaps you can understand the outrage of Koreans and other nations. It's a slap in the face for Japan (Shimane Prefecture) to commemorate this painful chapter of Asian history by announcing Takeshima Day in 2005.


From a geographic standpoint Japan's reasoning in 1905 was also incorrect. The Japanese Imperial Navy's Hydrographic Department simply noticed Liancourt Rocks was closer to Japan's mainland than Korea's and annexed the islands. Admiral Kimotsuki gave no thought Liancourt Rocks were much closer to Korea's Ulleungdo Island. Thus if Japan were to have possession of Liancourt Rocks now, Korea's Ulleungdo Island would be effectively boxed in to the tune of about 45 kms if Japan were to continue to follow their Rock=EEZ policy. Even a modest Japanese 12 nautical mile limit around Dokdo-Takeshima would contain Korean fishermen on Ulleungdo to about one-third of the water Japan's Okinoshimas would receive. (approx 65kms~185kms) It's clear Japanese possession of Dokdo-Takeshima could not be used to arrive at an equitable border between Japan and Korea.


BTW my research into the area of Japan's military involvement on Liancourt Rocks prior to their 1905 annexation was inspired by Japanese authors such as Kazuo Hori and Hideki Kajimura. It's not my original research, I just dug up the primary documents and put the pieces together.

Liberal friends? I hope you're not referring to people like James or other posters from occidentalism...

Yours Truly:
Steve Barber

Jun Okumura said...

1904? One year removed from 1905. That's a start in the right direction. It also predates the 1952-53 South Korean military undertaking by nearly half a century. Not a good precedent for South Korea. said...

Hmph! So dispite the fact that I've shown Japan's military aggression and civilian invasion of Korea was an integral part of their 1905 annexation of Dokdo Takeshima, you still support Japan's claim to Liancourt Rocks Mr Okumura?

Pretty disappointing but not surprising at all. After all you did serve 30 years in the Japanese government.

Mr Okumura, Japan's military aggression in 1905 was undertaken in Japan's Imperial Army's successful bid to control the Korean peninsula. The result was 40 years of Japanese colonization over Korea.

Korea's "military aggression" was Rhee Syngman's taking matters into his own hands and not allowing foreign powers to define Korea's territorial limits. The result was an equitable border between Japan and Korea that gives each nation an almost equal amount of territory. Do you see the difference?

President Rhee has been vilified by Japan's MOFA for imposing the Rhee Line. The Rhee Line was actually the same as other previous boundaries already proposed by other Allied nations. Korea was not allowed to participate in the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Korea was reduced to watching the Americans define her territorial limits while Japan lobbied away, secretly negotiating military base joint trusteeships with the American military brass. It was obvious to the Koreans, America's whole decision process for the disposition of former Japanese outlying islands was tainted by U.S. military interests in the region during the early Cold War.


Gerry Bevers said...

Dear Mr. Okumura,

I would like to advise you not to waste too much of your time responding to "" (Steve Barber), unless you really do enjoy it, because he only uses the opportunity to post links to his silly blog.

I also have a silly blog on the same subject and have wasted too much of my time over the last two or three years debating with Steve, but, at least, I do not normally go around advertising my blog on every site that pops up on Google with the names "Dokdo" or "Takeshima." Of course, the link I provided above is one of the few exceptions.

Like Steve, I have no life, so I spend much of my free time studying the Dokdo/Takeshima issues, but regardless of what you modestly wrote in your profile, you seem to have better things to do.

By the way, you are a very good writer, so I will probably be one of your non-comment readers in the future since I only know about a limited number of Korean issues and Dokdo/Takeshima and would not want to make a fool of myself.

Good luck getting that full-time speaking job.


Gerry Bevers

Jun Okumura said...

Mr. Barber:

I do not know how to conduct a dialogue with someone who has no interest in the legal process, which is the ultimate alternative to brute force in settling disputes between sovereign states as well as individuals, and ignore the need to look beyond 1905 and any actions by either party immediately preceding the administrative action to see if either party had established enough of a claim. The moral and emotional issues are interesting in their own right and certainly have a bearing on the political process (including warfare) and have thereby affected the definition and redrawing of national boundaries, but have little or no place in the legal validity of existing national boundaries. Any citizen of any one of the sovereign states founded by European stock or dominated at one time or other in their modern history by it can see that with regard to their own countries and their neighbors.

I also do not know what the Japanese position is with regard to international arbitration on the Northern Territories and the Senkaku Islands. I cannot speak for the Japanese government, but with regard to the Japan-China boundary of the EEZ, I do know that Japan has offered to take the issue to the International Court of Justice. Japan holds possession of the Senkaku Islands, so it is China who is in the position to take the initiative. In the interests of consistency, I believe that the Japanese authorities will be hard put to say no here, if the Chinese government also accepts ICJ jurisdiction on the EEZ boundary. As for the Northern Territories, my guess is that the Japanese authorities would be happy to settle the matter once and for all in the ICJ—I am sure that the Russians never will accept. In any case, it has never appeared to be broached in the half-century of bilateral negotiations. Anyone who wishes to know more is advised to inquire with the Japanese authorities.

Mr. Bevers:

I thank you for your kind words for my writing, and my blog. I aim to inform and entertain, and I’d like to agree with you on my merits, but my writing is good only in spots; I am all too aware that I am not a naturally gifted writer and have to keep working at it. I admire your devotion to your avocation—aside from the fact that you appear to have come down on the Japanese side on the issue. Dedicated people like you who do the hard work of examining primary sources are the ones who give less focused folks like me the chance to bloviate with a minimum of speculation. I am aware that there are other experts who have come down on the other side of the issue, though. I hope that there will be a forum, some time, somewhere, at which the two sides can come together and present their cases on point-by-counterpoint basis. I am not holding my breath while I wait.