Japan from the inside out

When Japan and Korea were one

Posted by ampontan on Friday, June 6, 2008

Can we say that Japanese-Korean relations are now in a desirable state? Koreans have often made an issue of Japan’s historical awareness, but the conception of this historical awareness itself is overtly Korean…Why have Japanese-Korean relations become so impenetrable?…It’s not only because the Koreans lack a complete understanding of history. It’s also because the Japanese have been negligent in making the diplomatic efforts toward resolution. (The relationship) is a joint production created by a lack of insight on both sides.
– Prof. Shimojo Masao

PROF. SHIMOJO is referring to the Takeshima dispute in this excerpt from his book, Nikkan: Rekishi Kokufuku e no Michi (Japan and Korea: The path toward overcoming history). In addition to Takeshima, he might just as well be speaking about the primary historical issue in bilateral relations from which all the others derive: Japan’s annexation/colonization of the Korean Peninsula in the first half of the 20th century.

Japan is the only Northeast Asian country to have had a continuously open and free political system since the end of the Allied occupation in 1952. It is the only country to have held free elections throughout that period with no interruptions. It is the only one to have maintained freedom of speech, and the only one not to have imposed martial law. It is also the only one not to have mustered out the army to butcher its own citizens in the street

Nevertheless, many in the West too often tend to accept the interpretation of regional historical issues from those in countries where deviation from the nationalist narrative is tantamount to professional suicide, rather than from Japan, where one can walk into any bookstore and find plenty of reading material that is brutally honest about the country’s past.

For example, last weekend in a neighborhood bookstore I plucked off the shelf a paperback titled Kankoku Heigo (The Annexation of Korea), written by Unno Fukuju in 1995 and now in its 18th printing. It cost 780 yen (about $US 7.40), which is pocket change for any curious high school or university student.

Here’s what it says on the flyleaf:

After using the Ganghwa Incident as an excuse to successfully open up Korea, Japan competed with China and balanced its interests with those of the Western powers. Following wars with both China and Russia, it annexed Korea in 1910. It is a history of cruel oppression and the elimination of the tenacious resistance of the Korean government and its people. This account is a full history depicting the entire process of Korean colonization, based on the latest historical research.

You’re not likely to find such self-criticism in China, but South Korea does have a few scholars who favor a more balanced viewpoint, despite the distressing number of people in that country who make up history to suit themselves. Surprisingly, some even think that the Japanese annexation/colonization was on balance a beneficial enterprise.

For example, just last week in the comment section, frequent poster Ken uploaded the links to three YouTube videos (here, here, and here) that contain a single 27-minute interview/lecture with Che Kei-ho, a visiting professor at Kaya University. The interview is titled Japan’s Annexation of Korea. It is in Japanese with acceptable English subtitles.

I found out about the videos last week, but a couple of other websites had posts about them last summer. Those websites didn’t take the time to discuss the content, however, leaving it to their readers to access and watch the videos themselves. That’s too bad, because many people wouldn’t take the trouble to watch, and many of those that did would lack the context to understand what they were seeing.

In brief, here’s what Prof. Che had to say, with some comments.


The professor says that Japan and Korea were essentially one state until about 500 or 600 years ago. He doesn’t mention that Japanese who urged annexation a century or so ago used the shared heritage of the two countries as a justification.

Joseon Dynasty

That changed when Lee Seong-gye founded the Joseon dynasty. Prof. Che says the dynasty turned the Korean Peninsula into an isolated backwater, as the ruling elites oppressed the common people, made no effort to improve the infrastructure, and created an unfriendly environment for commerce and industry. The people at the top ate, and everyone else starved. The rulers were somewhat strange and paranoid, shutting off the country from the outside world.

Anti-intellectuals, they prohibited the use of the Hangeul script–one of the peninsula’s landmark cultural achievements–and those authors who did use it were executed. It was common practice for the rulers to execute not only the criminals, but their families as well.

The professor is the first to admit that accurate statistics are impossible to obtain, but argues that the overall population under dynasty control fell from 1770 to 1910.

He makes the intriguing observation that most of the above characteristics closely resemble today’s North Korea under the Kim Family Regime. That comparison is interesting on several levels. When comparing themselves to the South, the North Koreans claim they are the ones who maintain the true traditional Korean spirit, and that the southerners are too influenced by foreigners. Today’s northerners certainly behave as if they are the heirs of the Korean “Hermit Kingdom” of the past.


The professor asserts that foreign control of such a backward place was inevitable. According to Prof. Che, the Koreans would have been unable to modernize on their own, and it was the Japanese who got them started. In his view, the Japanese created the industrial infrastructure, particularly railroads, and an educational system. The primary beneficiary of Japanese capital investment in industry was the northern part of country, which the professor says was better off under Japanese rule than it is today.

To demonstrate that the lives of the people improved, he cites statistics suggesting the population of the peninsula doubled from 1910 to 1945, reversing the declining trend.

Left Unsaid

What Prof. Che does not mention is that Japan’s development of Korea is seen by some as having been for the benefit of Japan. By the late 1920s, according to some sources, more than half of Korean rice production was exported to Japan, despite shortages in Korea that drove many Koreans to emigrate to Japan. (I haven’t seen the original sources, so I don’t know if the historians examine the extent to which the emigration was a natural movement away from an area of poverty to an area with more opportunities.)

Some historians also hold that Japanese armament production accounted for a significant part the industrialization of the north. (I tried to find information about the possibility of American bombing raids of these plants during the war, but was unsuccessful.)


One Japanese source cites statistics showing that the peninsula’s economy grew between 1% and 2% in the 1920s, and more than 3% in the 1930s, but of course those figures don’t mean much in isolation. The same source also admits that overall grain consumption declined on the peninsula during the first half of the annexation, but claims this is evidence of improved conditions in Korea.

His explanation: growth and capital investment led to the development of different economic classes, which in turn created a wealth gap. When that happened, the tenant farmers became poorer and consumed less. In contrast, there is a limit to the amount a landowner or other relatively well-off person can consume. Ergo, grain consumption declined with economic growth in the early 1930s.

Of course Prof. Che is not the first to argue that Korean weakness led to foreign domination and the annexation. Here’s Avram Agov summarizing a paper he wrote:

In its relation to foreign powers, the late Choson government manifested the major vulnerabilities that precipitated the collapse of Korean statehood. I examined the Korean military and financial systems because of their vitality for the normal function of a government. The paralysis of Korea’s financial and military systems precipitated the Japanese annexation of the peninsula by creating a political setting that was susceptible to deep foreign penetration and manipulation. The patterns of external control in Korea through finance and military was set by the Chinese (1884-1894), deepened by the Japanese (Kabo reforms, 1895-1896), shaped by the Russians (1896-1898), and fully utilized again by the Japanese after they established a protectorate in Korea in 1905.

By and large, the lack of an articulate Korean internal policy, pertinent instruments to carry out modernization reforms, and adequate vision of the ruling elite were chiefly attributable to the poor state of the military and financial systems at the turn of the century. These domestic factors contributed to a steady foreign penetration, which engulfed and shaped to a large degree the politics of late Choson dynasty. The Korean state continued to weaken in this the background of a growing urgency that demanded better internal and external performance.

Because others have presented similar arguments, the most noteworthy aspect of Prof. Che’s lecture is that he is a Korean insisting that Koreans should look in the mirror first, instead of at the Japanese, when they want to place the blame.

Lee Wang-yong

The professor’s 24-minute lecture included a brief mention of Lee Wang-yong (photo). That’s a shame, because he deserves closer examination. Lee was a reformer who wanted to Westernize Korea and thought that would be best achieved through association with Japan. He signed the treaty of annexation and served as the country’s prime minister from 1906-1910.

There’s a striking resemblance between Lee and the Meiji Restoration-era reformers in Japan of the previous generation. After living in the United States from 1887 to 1891, he recognized just how far his country had fallen behind. Lee was fluent in English, but couldn’t speak Japanese, though he was later made a member of the Japanese peerage.

Lee surely considered himself a patriot, but his fellow countrymen today see him as a collaborator and traitor. He is viewed with so much repugnance that his remains were dug up and dismembered. (It doesn’t sound like a good idea to get on the bad side of a Korean.) In fact, the South Korean National Assembly passed a bill in 2005 to seize the property of collaborators with the Japanese, and the large landholdings of his descendants were confiscated.

Here’s some background on the legislation written by Korean university Professor Choo Jae-woo:

Many South Korea experts in Japan see Roh’s investigation as being primarily politically motivated to strengthen the shaky political ground for Roh’s progressives in advance of the 2007 presidential election – and to harm Park Guen-hye’s opposition Grand National Party (GNP). They also point out that South Korean governments, except for that of former president Kim Dae-jung, have used anti-Japanese elements to strengthen the sitting administration’s political standing and divert the people’s attention away from such domestic difficulties as a sluggish economy. Using anti-Japanese sentiments makes it easier to unite the nation and boost nationalist feelings.

Many experts in Japan? Most South Koreans thought the same thing—there was no need to use the Japanese as camouflage. They were also quite aware that opposition leader Park was the daughter of former South Korean President Park Chung-hee, who also served as an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army in the 1940s. That potentially put her reputation and assets at risk. (Park, incidentally, was selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most important Asians of the 20th century).

Prof. Choo’s article is poorly written (in fact, almost unreadable) and is biased from several perspectives, even when he means well:

To condemn (the collaborators’ families) for retaining their inherited wealth and status is somewhat like charging the descendants of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and others in the United States (who plundered its wealth as the nation industrialized) and denouncing their economic and social well-being today by blowing out of proportion their ancestors’ illegal and unjust way of gaining their wealth. But even the American robber barons were not like the Japanese occupiers.

Yet as the first excerpt makes clear, anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea is cynically manipulated and fanned by local politicians for domestic reasons. Historical research on the Korean Peninsula is not always driven by a search for the truth. Gaining the advantage in domestic politics and in international diplomacy is just as important, if not more so.

Better relations between Japan and Korea depend on a more sophisticated historial awareness. Despite Korean assertions, there’s a greater need for that awareness in today’s Korea than in Japan. Prof. Che’s work, flawed though it might be in some ways, is a step in the right direction.

Fortunately, he’s not alone. Cho Woo-suk, writing about the demonization of Lee Wang-yong in the JoongAng Daily in 2001, had this to say:

The truth is not as simple as an elementary school textbook.

And that’s an excellent place to start.

Update: Here is an overview of colonial period economic history, written by a Korean, and here is a link to a comparison of the colonial economies of Korea and Taiwan, also by a Korean, both courtesy of Ponta.

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37 Responses to “When Japan and Korea were one”

  1. Darin said

    A damn good post.

  2. jtake said

    It seems to me that Koreans never behave properly without oppression. We, as a Japanese, should take tougher approach to them, then the bilateral relation will be smooth.

  3. Sain said

    While I agree with a good number of what he said, there are some assumptions and broad generalizations which make me question his interest in fairness. I’ve seen the video whole before, I hope the ones linked aren’t the 2ch versions that added in pictures of prostitutes and pass them off as citizens (at work, youtube is blocked).

    Just like to add, my grand uncle (much older than my grand father, family structure was odd back then…) was along the lines of an electrical engineer who had some dealings in the far east, and was contacted by to work on electric power systems and railway linkage in Korea around the 1870’s. He never got around to see when it was finished though as some Japanese and other workers came in and had other plans on the designs (not to mention things didn’t look too stable) so headed out.

    Thus, I find it sort of dubious to say that the Koreans wouldn’t have modernized, around this time a good number of Koreans were aware how far behind. Now, modernized as quick? Who knows, but I don’t think it would have mattered much either way if the events still led to the Korean war.

  4. Bender said

    It seems to me that Koreans never behave properly without oppression. We, as a Japanese, should take tougher approach to them, then the bilateral relation will be smooth.

    Such as?

    I think Japan should distance herself from the hegemony game going on in NE Asia. It’s a waste of time.

  5. LaL said

    Excellent article.

    The funny thing about human pride is that we are all BORN into it all.

    They’ll just implode again.

  6. jtake said

    To Bender,

    >Such as?

    At this moment, I was referring to the territorial dispute over Takeshima and abduction victims, but this will be applied to everything coming in the near future to exclude Chinese power from at least South Korea.

    >I think Japan should distance herself from the hegemony game going on in NE Asia.

    You make it seem like we are just playing a game, but we have to be aware that Chinese government has territorial ambition at least to Taiwan and North Korea, possibly to the entire Korean peninshula and Okinawa. When the entire Korean peninshula and Taiwan is under the influence of China, it is exactly analogous to the situation just before the Japan-Russo war, which made Japan recognize the necessity of annexation. In reality, North Korea is almost completely under the influence of Beijing, at least economically, and South Korea is very vulnerable. When it actually happen, it is too late.

  7. ponta said

    For your reference
    Japanese Colonialism in Korea: A Comparative Perspective

    Bruce Cumings

    I happened to find a few years ago in the library a book by an American named Angus Hamilton, who visited Korea in 1904……There was, for Angus Hamilton, no question of the superiority of Korean living conditions, both urban and rural, to those of China, if not Japan. “Seoul,” he wrote, “was the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, water, telephone, and telegraph systems all at the same time.” Most of these systems were installed and run by Americans. The Seoul Electric Light Company, the Seoul Electric Trolley Company, the Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company, were all American firms.

    Isn’t it true that 80 to 90 percent of what the Japanese built was destroyed during the Korean War?

    I’ve looked at the statistics on rolling stock, and railways, and various other things in South Korea. The fact is the American Air Force had control of the air in Korea within weeks of the opening of the war, and the only place they ever lost it, even temporarily, was in North Korea, not in South Korea. Thus the bombing in South Korea and the destruction of facilities was much, much less than North Korea.

    The Economic History of Korea
    Myung Soo Cha, Yeungnam University

    Per capita grain consumption declined during the colonial period, providing grounds for traditional criticism of the Japanese colonialism exploiting Korea. However, per capita real consumption increased, due to rising non-grain and non-good consumption, and Koreans were also getting better education and living longer.

  8. Aceface said

    Jtake:What you are saying aren’t based on accurate history.

    Ponta:Cummings is troublesome fellow who puts politics over facts.

    Angus Hamilton was a war correspondent travelling elsewhere who later commit suicides in New York.He is no serious observer and not even an Asia hand.Besides his view on Korea is basically the opposite of the most of the watchers of his age.Cummings knows that.

    I found an article on him in New York Times reporting his suicide because of the failure of the lecture tour and financial difficulties.Weird thing is Times says Hamilton is an Englishman and not even an American.

    “Seoul,” he wrote, “was the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, water, telephone, and telegraph systems all at the same time.”

    Not really,Tokyo Electric Light was established in 1883.Telephone and Telegraph system was strted in Tokyo in 1885.The Tokyo Waterworks was fully functional in 1898.
    And as for Seoul Electric Trolly Company (established in 1898),J-Wikipedia on trolly of Seoul entry says,actual construction and design was conducted by Kyoto Electric Trolly Company that was already running trolly in Kyoto in 1895.(The company was established in 1894)
    王室とアメリカの技術者の共同出資で漢城電気(資本金150万円 コールブラン氏とボストイック氏両氏が75万円、王室が75万円、うち王室は15万円のみ払込)が1898年に設立され、電車の敷設を行う事にした。この時、一足早く電車の導入を開始していた日本の京都電気鉄道(1895年開業)に設計と工事を依頼している。

  9. jtake said


    Thanks for the posting. The youtube videos are really interesting.

    >The professor says that Japan and Korea were essentially one state until about 500 or 600 years ago.

    I think Prof. Che’s wording in Japanese was misleading. I guess he would like to say that unitl 500-600 years ago, Japan and Korea shared the culture based on the Buddhism. My view is not exactly the same as his; our culture is based on the mythology (you could also say Sinto) and later we accepted the Buddhism. The Buddhism might have been shared at that time, but I think it was unlikely that we shared Sinto. More importantly, what makes Japanese Japanese is the notion that we are legitimate successor of the myth. In that sense, we have never been one state. Until mid 7th century, Japan occupied southern part of Korean peninshula, and had strong influence on 百済(Pekche), and after Japan lost the war against 唐 and 新羅 (Tang dinasty in china and Silla) we retreat from the peninshula. So I would say we had had closer tie before this event, but after that, Japan and Korea were kept separated until the annexation.

    Another thing that I think misleading is that Ito Hirobumi (伊藤博文) was not the person who insisted on annexation. Of course he was one of the Japanese politicians who were responsible for Japanese taking over the Korean diplomatic right, he kept oppsing the annexation itself. There was a dispute in Japanese government whehter she should annexate Korea or keep it under control as a separate nation. His assasination was the very important trigger for the annexation.

  10. jtake said


    I don’t think you understand my view on history because the only thing I mentioned on the history was the situation just before the Japan-Russo war. It would never be possible to describe the “accurate history” by just one sentence. The I don’t think it’s fair to criticize without understading it. If you would like to criticize that I was wrong, you shold point out what was wrong.

    As Prof. Che was saying in the videos that there is no “if” in the history, it doesn’t help to turn over his argument that Korea was modernized under Japanese rule by citing some of the modernization project taking place before the annexation.

  11. ponta said

    Does your argument affect the fact that “The Seoul Electric Light Company, the Seoul Electric Trolley Company, the Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company, were all American firms” and the fact that “the American Air Force had control of the air in Korea within weeks of the opening of the war, and the only place they ever lost it, even temporarily, was in North Korea, not in South Korea” ?

  12. Baltimoron said

    Thank you for this post and the links.

    However, this is not the history (and I’m not arguing it’s wrong) I learned from what I consider to be the most balanced “peninsula-cenrric” account, Korea, Old and New: A History (1990), written by Carter Eckert and Ki-baik Lee, and a team of scholars at Harvard. I have little problem with the interpretation of the Choseon to modern period. It’s the pre-Choseon period where the Eckert/Lee account is thinnest, so Che’s interpretation is plausible.

    I would be interested to know of any English translations of this interpretation.

  13. Aceface said


    You’ve already showed us enough.

    Takeshima and abduction issues are in the realm of national sovereignty,of which Japan has right to defend it’s own interest.But you’ve said “this will be applied to everything coming in the near future to exclude Chinese power from at least South Korea”.
    This is troublesome,since South Korea is an independent nation and intrusion beyond our border is crossing the line of our self defense.

    You’ve also said”When the entire Korean peninshula and Taiwan is under the influence of China, it is exactly analogous to the situation just before the Japan-Russo war”
    This is basically the situation just before the wake of Sino-Japanese war in 1895,not Russo-Japanese war of 1904.And at that time,China was no threat to Japan.Japan waged the war to China in Korea to wipe out China’s influence and bring independence to Koreans,but in reality Japan fought the war for the territorial ambition in the peninsula and gain hegemony in East Asia.

    You’ve also said “Japan-Russo war made Japan (to) recognize the necessity of annexation”.”the necessity” was,I believe,the security concerns regarding Russian influence in Korea.
    But this was inevitable,since Russian influence in Korea was the direct cause of Chinese defeat in Sino-Chinese war.
    In another words,it was the consequence of Japan’s own action,started with intention of “exclude Chinese power from Korea”.

    Lessons from our Koream gambit in the first half of 20th century are,Japan should not violate sovereignty of others for the sake of defence of ours.

  14. Aceface said

    No.My argument affect the fact that “the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, water, telephone, and telegraph systems all at the same time”may not be Seoul and “the superiority of Korean living conditions, both urban and rural, to those of China, if not Japan”is highly questionable.

    I’d imagine Cummings brought this up to say Korea was already starting to modernize before Japanese arrived or perhaps even more advanced.While there are definitly some rooms for the argument(especially the former),I don’t think the point he had made by quoting Angus Hamilton does not stand,and himself probably knew that too by only writing “There was, for Angus Hamilton”.Instead He could always check the fact by looking into the numerous works by Japanologists on modernization in Meiji era and come up with more concrete evidence than a travelogue written a century ago.

  15. […] me to appreciate the permeability of human memory, and in this case, history. Ampontan writes about when Japan and Korea were one, and now the peninsula-centric history I had accepted after years of conflicting northern and […]

  16. ampontan said

    Ponta: When I say the war, I mean WWII. Is that the air superiority you are talking about?

    Baltimoron: Do you mean English translations of Che’s interpretation of pre-Joseon?

    BTW, you might find that economic history link in #7 interesting. I wish I had known about it before I wrote.

  17. ponta said


    No.My argument affect the fact that “the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, water, telephone, and telegraph systems all at the same time”may not be Seoul and “the superiority of Korean living conditions, both urban and rural, to those of China, if not Japan”is highly questionable.

    Though I think Cumning’s view of politics sometimes overshadows his narrative, his point here is different .
    He continues.

    Hamilton concluded that the
    period since the opening of the country in the 1870s had afforded Koreans countless
    opportunities to select for themselves such institutions as may be calculated to promote their
    own welfare. This is powerful evidence supporting the Korean claim that their route to
    modernity was not facilitated by Japan, but derailed and hijacked. Still, note the indexes that
    the American Hamilton chooses to highlight: electricity, telephones, trolleys, schools, consumption
    of American exports, and cleanliness. If we find that Japan brought similar
    facilities to Seoul and Taipei, do we place them on the ledger of colonialism or modernization?
    The Korean answer is colonialism; the Japanese and Taiwanese answer is modernization.

    (Seems the link does not work, here is pdf.


    Ponta: When I say the war, I mean WWII. Is that the air superiority you are talking about?

    Ops Sorry. I thought you were talking about Koeran war.

    If you found the link interesting, you might also find the following link interesting.

    Industrialization in the Colonial Period: A Comparison of Korea and Taiwan

    Presenter: Ahn Byong-Jick ( Seoul National Univ., Division of Economics )

  18. Ken said


    It seems your mentioned Prof. Unno attended a int’l conference which Korean consocium supported by Korean gov held at Harvard univ in Nov,2001.
    Korean conspiracy to resolute that the annexation had been illegal was denied by western countries’ univ professors such as Cambridge.
    Besides the evidence to void the only reason of the illegality seemed to have been found recently as follows.
    Power of attourney from emperor of Lee dynasty to PM Lee Wang-Yong;

    Notice about the annexation for Korean people;

    And various opinions about the annexation if you read many Kanji text;

  19. Arleng said

    Yeah, these were the videos posted on 2ch from a few years back…anyone have the unmodified versions? Surprised this one was posted after being viewed.

  20. Professor Shimojo has been trying to soft sell Japan’s annexation of Korea for a long time. He has using this premise to try to convince us that Japan’s basis for her annexation of Takehshima was not an agression. This is a fallacy.

    Japan’s reasons for incorporating Takeshima were from two different forms of aggression. The first was Japan’s civilian invasion of Korean land. This was most apparent on Korea’s Ulleungdo Island, Takeshima’s most proximal island. At least four to five hundred Japanese squatters illegally built houses and settled on Chosun’s Ulleungdo. With the start of the fishing season this population would swell to at least 1000 illegal Japanese residents on Ulleungdo.

    The Japanese had been illegally felling trees, cultivating the land and encroaching upon the Koreans on Ulleungdo for at least 20 years. Numerous times the Korean government demanded the Japanese government to remove these illegals. The Japanese response was to install police on Ulleungdo in 1902 without the consent of the Korean government. Those illegal squatters fishing from Korea’s Ulleungdo were Japan superficial basis for Japan’s “legal” incorporation.

    The second form of aggression was Japan’s military agenda for Takeshima. Of course, when Japan annexed Takeshima she was in the midst of the Russo Japanese War. Japanese politicians such as Yamaza Enjiro (Genyosha) Kiyourga Kiego (Yamagata Faction) Komura Jutaro (Korean annexation supporter) and the Japanese Imperial Navy’s Admiral Kenko Kimotsuki all had a hand in processing the civilian application to incorporate Takeshima. Japan simply annexed Liancourt Rocks in her bid to colonize Korea during the largest war of the day.

    The main part of pointing out the above is not to paint Japan as evil. The issue is, what was the nature of the Takeshima region in 1905? What was the backdrop for Japan’s incorporation? Is it a practical approach to apply the circumstances of 1905 to determine possession of an island that will ultimately draw the territorial limits of Japan and Korea 2008?

    The answer is no on many points.

    First, when Japan annexed Takeshima in 1905 the Japanese had long since established a foothold on Korean soil, most notably Ulleungdo Island. The demographics of the region were worlds apart from now. The population of Ulleungdo consisted of many Japanese civilians, there were Japanese police who controlled Ulleungdo and in fact by 1904 Japan had installed watchtowers and military personnel on Ulleungdo.

    In 1905 when Japan annexed Liancourt Rocks, the Hydrographic Department used the fact Takeshima was closer to the Japanese mainland as her geographic basis to incorporate the islets. No consideration was given that Chosun’s Ulleungdo was only 87kms away. Under today’s maritime law Ulleungdo can generate a 200mile EEZ much the same as Japan’s Oki Islands can. Obviously, using EEZs as a basis for boundaries, Takeshima (Dokdo) is clearly Korean territory.
    The legality of Japan’s annexation of the Korean peninsula is important but whether we deem it evil on not is moot. The point is, we can’t use the political, demographic and economic circumstances of Korea in 1905 to define her marine boundary over a century later. That’s pretty ridiculous.

  21. ampontan said


    Is it a practical approach to apply the circumstances of 1905 to determine possession of an island that will ultimately draw the territorial limits of Japan and Korea 2008?

    No, but that’s not what this post is about. Even remotely.

    The point is, we can’t use the political, demographic and economic circumstances of Korea in 1905 to define her marine boundary over a century later.

    No one here is saying that we can.

    The San Francisco Peace Treaty determined Japanese territory at the end of the war, by the way. Takeshima was part of it. All sorts of other territories claimed by Japan were returned to other countries, but Takeshima wasn’t.


    Surprised this one was posted after being viewed.

    What difference does it make? The point is the content of the professor’s lecture/interview, and not the final 30 seconds or so at the end of the third.

    If you have one you prefer, by all means send the links.

  22. ampontan said

    Ken: Even though he talks about Japanese oppression, Prof. Unno says that the annexation was legal under international law at the time. I got it because a reviewer at said it was another “aka” Iwanami book (g). At the same time, I got the book on the same subject by the Korean (now Japanese) woman Prof. O. I thought comparing the two would be interesting.

  23. Ampontan, Professor Shimojo is one of many Japanese who use the San Francisco Peace Treaty as proof of sovereignty over Takeshima. The Japanese Takeshima lobbyists have long used the Japan Peace Treaty as an excuse to claim Liancourt Rocks.

    But this is wrong because:

    In reality there was no mention of Takeshima in the final draft of the San Francisco Peace Treaty at all. There we many drafts, some said the Koreans should get the islets, some draft gave Takeshima to Japan but in the end the issue of Liancourt Rocks was left out altogehter. The omission of Takeshima doesn’t amount to the Allies ceding the islands to Japan. If you would like to show the passage of the final SF Treaty that mentions Takeshima, I’d love to see it.

    The Allied decisions with regard to territorial possession of former Japanese islands were not based on historical title. They were based on military decisions. The U.S. military brass was making these territorial decisions while at the same time drawing up plans for joint trusteeships between Japan and the U.S. for setting up bases on Japanese outlying islands such as the Ryukyus, Marcus Island etc., This can be seen in cases such as when the allies deliberated over whether or not to give Korea’s Cheju Island to Japan.

    At the very least, the ROK was not permitted to participate directly in the Japan Peace Treaty which is a shame. At the same time South Korea was not signatory to the SF Treaty and thus this document has absolutely zero legal effect on the ROK at all.

    Professor Shimojo is just as bad, if not worse, than the Koreans he bashes. He uses Japan’s 1905 annexation of Liancourt Rocks as a legal basis for their claim today. Yet, he refuses to acknowledge the historical, political and military circumstances surrounding the event.

    Having studied the Dokdo Takeshima problem for years now, I would say Professor Shimojo’s interpretation of the historical events surrounding Japan’s annexation of Takeshima/Japan is seriously flawed and politically motivated. He should not be trusted, he is a Takeshima lobbyist for Shimane Prefecture, that’s all.

  24. ampontan said

    Having studied the Dokdo Takeshima problem for years now, I would say Professor Shimojo’s interpretation of the historical events surrounding Japan’s annexation of Takeshima/Japan is seriously flawed and politically motivated. He should not be trusted, he is a Takeshima lobbyist for Shimane Prefecture, that’s all.

    Having met Prof. Shimojo (and his Korean wife) at least 15 years ago (I forget exactly when), I can assure you that he is much more than a “Takeshima lobbyist for Shimane Prefecture”.

    Out of curiosity, what books of his have you read?

    Would you have us believe that the stuff coming from Korea in this is not “politically motivated”? Please.

    From Shimane Prefecture:

    For example, consider its interpretation for Takeshima’s omission from the territory that Japan must renounce in Article 2 (a) of the San Francisco Peace Treaty: “The United States just considered Dokdo (Takeshima in Japanese) to be a small rock formation, and decided that it was unnecessary to make a special mention of it in the treaty. This does not mean it is recognized as Japanese territory.” This is in contradiction to South Korea’s entreaties to the United States during the draft treaty stage to include Takeshima as South Korean territory.

    Please address any subsequent responses to the Shimane page listed at the top (or the Mainichi article). Takeshima is completely unrelated to this post.

  25. Aceface said

    “He should not be trusted, he is a Takeshima lobbyist for Shimane Prefecture, that’s all.”

    Even if he is a lobbyist,why should he be not trusted,SB? And what do you think about Korean side.Aren’t they not seriously flawed? Like Masan city assembly demanding Tsushima,populated more than 3,7000 Japanese citizens?

    I gotta tell you,SB.Few things about some of the reality here in the rising sun you don’t get it through Korean media.There are no such thing called Takeshima lobbyist in this country.Only lobby group focusing the territorial issue here in Japan is the one with Russia.

  26. Ken said


    According to the article by Mr. Kuroda (maybe Sankei);
    Prof. Unno stated that the annexation was legal but unjust, unfair, undue, exorbitant or unreasonable.
    Prof. Sasagawa of Int’l Christians univ stated that it was illegal.
    Prof. A. Carty of Derby univ stated that power was superceding int’l law at the imperialism era.
    Prof. J. Crawford of Cambridge univ stated that the importance at that time was whether it was accepted among civilized nations or not.
    (It seems he was hinting at Korea was not civilized country.)

  27. ponta said

    Hi Steve
    I think Aceface is right: whether Shimojou or Bruce Cumings is politically oriented, it does not mean he is wrong on specific facts. Let’s not derail the topic.
    Incidentally thank you for presenting the evidence on another blog that Usando is not dokdo/takeshima.

  28. J said

    who cares?

    im not sure and someone could clarify for me…but i heard somewhere that there are international rules for claiming a territory…something about having residents live there and so and and so forth…as far as I know, Dokdo or Takeshima has a few Korean family and militarily is controlled by Korea. Case closed. The Japanese lobbyists (if they exist at all as someone questioned its existence earlier) can scream all they want, but unless they’re ready to pick up uzis and ak-47s, none of this really matters. If it does, koreans should start screaming bloody murder at chinese and demand the manchu regions which used to koreans (when one of its more aggressive Koguryeo kings conquered it)….in fact, who cares period! sh*t. we’re all people living on a tiny blue dot in a limitless space. just shut the hell up and live peacefully….jeesh…

  29. Bender said

    just shut the hell up and live peacefully

    Tell your Korean friends that, J! Don’t forget to tell them to stop making dubious claims about Korea’s right over Manchuria.

  30. […] then no problem, the Wikipedia articles linked to are perfectly adequate, if basic introductions; this blog entry provides some additional information and links too. I’m going to start off here with some […]

  31. Amanda said

    Japan: For a country that has raped and killed an inhuman amount of civilains, women and children in numerous countries sure does YAP A LOT on topics when they should SHUTUP and learn to act sincerely SORRY.FOR THE RAPE OF NANKING,MALAY,KOREA..FOR THE JAPANESE IMPERIAL ARMY HAVING NOO HONOR. NO HONOR AT ALL, GUTTING WOMEN AND BABIES…FOR DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE AND PICTURES OF ATROCITIES WATCH 2007 MOVIE NANKING.
    (2007) R
    Co-directors Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman helm this Sundance selection chronicling the story of “the Rape of Nanking,” a World War II-era tragedy in which more than 200,000 Chinese citizens were murdered and tens of thousands were raped at the hands of Japanese soldiers. Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemingway and Stephen Dorff portray some of the Westerners who rose to the occasion with quiet acts of heroism.



  32. ampontan said

    You seem to have come here by mistake, Amanda. The people who usually visit don’t think Hollywood movies have much to do with actual history.

    You might try a site with more of a showbiz orientation. You know, one with candid snapshots of the stars and all.

  33. Ken said

    Next film is dedicated for Amanda to become a good girl.

  34. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Ken: I don’t mind if Amanda becomes good girl or bad girl, the link you gave made me a better boy. Thanks.

  35. To Jtake, Ampontan, ken, bender, darin, and LAL:

    Can you please remove yourself from the gene pool? Preferably in the most painful and agonizing way possible? Retard

    Die painfully okay? Prefearbly by getting crushed to death in a
    garbage compactor, by getting your face cut to ribbons with a
    pocketknife, your head cracked open with a baseball bat, your stomach
    sliced open and your entrails spilled out, and your eyeballs ripped
    out of their sockets. Fucking bitch

    I really hope that you get curb-stomped. It’d be hilarious to see you
    begging for help, and then someone stomps on the back of your head,
    leaving you to die in horrible, agonizing pain. Faggot

    Shut the fuck up f aggot, before you get your face bashed in and cut
    to ribbons, and your throat slit.
    JG: Thanks for the note.

    Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

    – A.

  36. Tony said

    Hmm….sounds more like Mel Gibson rather than a “John Gibson”.

  37. American Kim said

    I remember this posting of yours way back, Bill (yes, I’ve been lurking here and about for years, and as you now know it is only very recently that I’ve begun to post here).

    Korea and Japan were not one before the 20th Century. There were most definitely international exchanges (Kaya Confederacy and the Koreans who left the peninsula and later became part of the earlier tribes that became Japan). But 500-600 years ago Korea and Japan were not one nation.

    In 1412, Korea was already underway in the Choson Dynasty (朝鮮王朝). In 1412, Japan was under the rule of the Ashikaga Shogunate (足利幕府).

    The languages were not the same. Korean and Japanese existed albeit in forms much different than what is spoken today. The yangban elites in Korea and the samurai in Japan used Chinese characters in their writing, and both amongst themselves and with Chinese officials, written Chinese was used. In fact, the usage of Chinese characters in international relations lasted until the dawn of the modern era. It was only after the end of the bakumatsu era, when Japan modernized during the Meiji period and adopted western institutions, that the representatives of the government of Japan ceased using Chinese-language documents and began to use texts in Japanese. Certainly, the written Chinese language was not discarded altogether; then as now, written Japanese used Chinese characters. But my point stands. The written Japanese language, as did the Korean counterpart, used plenty of Chinese pictoideograms, but the spoken language was different.

    Additionally, note that however small both Korea and Japan, there have long existed distinct dialects within each nation. A native of Pusan speaks in a strong accent which oftentimes Seoulites struggle to understand. Get a peasant from the northern villages of North Korea in the middle of Taegu and barely anybody will understand him. Likewise in Japan, there are different dialects with their own expressions and intonations. Had Japan and Korea been “essentially one nation” as “recently” as 5-6 centuries ago, how does one explain the rich linguistic diversity inside each country and the considerable differences one will readily notice in the phonology and diction of the Korean and Japanese languages?

    And if the good professor’s claim that Korea and Japan were basically the same nation 500-600 years ago, why did Koryo willingly participate in the Mongol campaign against Japan in the 13th Century? I fathom the Mongols didn’t care much about any ostensible fraternity between the residents in the two countries, but if the Koreans and Japanese were basically one country, then why didn’t the Bakumatsu come to Korea’s aid when the Mongols first invaded? Likewise, if they were fraternal nations, why did Hideyoshi Toyotomi launch his barbaric attack on Korea in the 16th Century?

    I’m not an opponent of what some call “alternative history” per se – but this is going a bit too far. Not even the most pro-Japanese Korean or the most left-wing, anti-militarist, pro-redress-to-Korea Japanese will ever agree that Korea and Japan were one nation 500-600 years ago.
    AK: Thanks for the note. Stuff like this is always welcome. Post as much as you like.

    Here in my part of Kyushu, the old folks tended to pronounce the “seh” syllable as “sheh” with a soft, rather than a hard, “sh”. I was told that there is the same pronunciation in parts of the southern part of the Korean Peninusula. Where, I’m not sure. I’ve been to Busan, but didn’t notice. Then again, younger people around here don’t talk like that anymore, so the same is probably true in Korea.



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