Seoul-Tokyo relations set to dip as Japan releases results of Dokdo opinion poll

Posted on : 2013-08-03 13:46 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Japan could be trying to bolster its claim to the South Korean islets by releasing poll data
 a minister at the Japanese embassy in Seoul
a minister at the Japanese embassy in Seoul

By Park Byong-su, staff reporter and Jeong Nam-ku, Tokyo correspondent

The South Korean government responded vehemently on Aug. 2 to Japan carrying out its first-ever public poll on Dokdo and announcing the results. Now it plans to continue responding sternly to what is describing as a “new breed of provocation.”

In a spokesperson’s statement released on Aug. 2, the day after the results were announced, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a sternly worded message to Tokyo.

“We sternly protest the Japanese government’s decision to use a opinion poll commissioned by the Japanese Cabinet Office as a pretext for yet another provocation regarding Dokdo, a territory that is clearly South Korean on historical and geographical grounds and by international law, and strongly urge it to halt such actions at once,” it said.

“It is deplorable for the Japanese government to continue coming out with these absurd claims about Dokdo,” it continued. “Such ahistorical behavior will pose a serious obstacle to the future-oriented development of South Korea-Japan relations and reconciliation in Northeast Asia.”

The government also summoned Kanehiro Funakoshi, a minister at the Japanese embassy in Seoul, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that morning to have Northeast Asia bureau chief Lee Sang-deok deliver a formal message of protest.

The day before, the Japanese government announced the results of an eleven-day survey of 1,784 adults around the country that started on July 20. Specifically, it said that interviews on territorial claims to Dokdo showed 61% of respondents agreeing that the islets were Japanese territory both on historical grounds and according to international law.

Japanese news outlets had published findings from opinion polls on Dokdo in the past, but this was the first time the Japanese government conducted a survey of its own.

The South Korean government believes that the Japanese publication of the results of the poll is a sign that the Japanese government intends to step up promotion of its territorial claims to Dokdo.

The Shinzo Abe government also dispatched Parliamentary Secretary Aiko Simajiri (a member of the central government whose rank is equivalent to vice-minister) to “Takeshima Day,” an event organized by Simane Prefecture on Feb. 22. Takeshima is the Japanese name for Dokdo.

“In February, Japan set up a special office within the Cabinet for planning and adjusting territorial claim measures to take charge of territorial issues,” an official in the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on condition of anonymity. “This public opinion poll was carried out by this office, and we expect that it will carry out more provocations about Dokdo in the future.”

It appears that relations between Japan and South Korea will deteriorate even further as a result of the publication of the results of the poll. In particular, it is expected that there will be further delays in scheduling a summit meeting between the leaders of Japan and South Korea, which has yet to happen even though five months have passed since a new administration took office in South Korea.

“Recently, Abe has made an effort to improve relations between the two countries, even canceling a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, but those efforts were canceled out by this provocative poll,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs official.

“It’s like the Japanese government is stepping on the accelerator and the brake at the same time. I’m not exactly sure what they’re trying to do,” the official said.

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