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EDITORIAL | Who Benefits from South Korean Lawmakers' Illegal Takeshima Landing?

Opposition South Korean lawmakers illegally occupied Takeshima to shake the cooperation between Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington. Autocratic regimes will be happy.



Takeshima has been illegally occupied by South Korea since the end of the Allied Occupation, just before Japan regained its independence after WWII. (© Sankei)

Recently 17 members of the South Korean National Assembly landed on Takeshima, which is an inherent part of Japan, in defiance of a prior appeal from the Japanese government to cancel the planned event. All 17 South Korean lawmakers belonged to the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). 

At present, South Korea is illegally occupying the Takeshima group of islands, and such landings are completely unacceptable. It was only natural that Japan's foreign ministry would fire off a protest to the government of South Korea. 

During the recently concluded general election, the DPK scored a resounding win. They attacked President Yoon Suk-yeol and his ruling People Power Party (PPP) as "pro-Japan" and allegedly making concessions to Japan.  

While on the stump before the election, DPK leader Lee Jae Myung also irresponsibly stated, "No matter what unfolds in the Taiwan Strait and no matter what takes place in China-Taiwan relations, it does not concern us."

After the election, Lee met with Yoon, encouraging the President to modify his foreign policy regarding ties with Japan. Thus, the DPK seems determined to whip up anti-Japan sentiment to attack Yoon's administration.

Fond of anti-Japan rhetoric, opposition leader Lee Jae-myung addresses his supporters in his campaign on March 19. (©Lee Jae-myung Facebook)

DPK Stirring Up Anti-Japan Sentiment

President Yoon must stand up to this pressure from the opposition. Shaking security cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul or among Japan, South Korea, and the United States, will only benefit autocratic regimes like North Korea, China, and Russia. 

Japanese fishermen have been continuously fishing in the waters around Takeshima from at least the Edo period (1600-1868). Furthermore, no nation protested when in 1905 it was incorporated by Cabinet resolution into Shimane Prefecture

Then, in January 1952, just before the Treaty of San Francisco ended the Allied occupation and restored full sovereignty to Japan, the Republic of Korea unilaterally established the so-called "Syngman Rhee Line." That line enclosed a wide swath of the coastal waters of the Sea of Japan, including Takeshima. Seoul also began to claim that Takeshima was its own sovereign territory. In the years that followed, Japanese fishing boats were seized by South Korea. Japanese patrol boats were even fired upon. 


Then, in 1954, elements of the South Korean Coast Guard landed on Takeshima. They have continued to occupy it for around 70 years, blatantly infringing on Japanese sovereignty in the process. 

President Yoon Seok-yul, President Joe Biden, and PM Fumio Kishida (from left to right) gather before Camp David for a trilateral summit (©ROK Presidential Office)

Standing Up for International Law, Japanese Sovereignty

On three separate occasions between 1954 and 2012, Japan offered to submit the issue to the International Court of Justice. However, Seoul refused each time. The way the system is set up, both sides need to agree to participate in the adjudication process. But Japan must continue to bring up the issue as many times as necessary to make the international community aware of South Korea's continued illegal occupation of Takeshima.

We need to take other steps as well. For example, the government has officially established February 7 as Northern Territories Day. On that day the prime minister and related officials attend a rally and demand that Russia return the islands. 

Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture celebrated Takeshima Day in a ceremony at the civic center on February 22, 2024. (© Sankei by Shigeru Amari)

Shimane Prefecture has established Takeshima Day (February 22) by ordinance and also conducts commemorative ceremonies on that day. However, only a parliamentary secretary from the Cabinet Office has represented the central government.

The government must not neglect all efforts to reclaim Japan's national territory.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun