[Reportage] Exhibition hall claiming that Dokdo is Japanese territory opens in Tokyo

Posted on : 2018-01-28 17:49 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The venue also contains information about Japan’s territorial disputes with China
Visitors to the Territory and Sovereignty Exhibition Hall at the Shisei Kaikan building in downtown Tokyo look at a display which claims that Dokdo is Japanese territory on Jan. 25. (by Cho Ki-weon
Visitors to the Territory and Sovereignty Exhibition Hall at the Shisei Kaikan building in downtown Tokyo look at a display which claims that Dokdo is Japanese territory on Jan. 25. (by Cho Ki-weon

“Are you familiar with Takeshima [Dokdo]? In the 17th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate established sovereignty by giving [Japanese fishermen] permission to catch sea lions.”

When I entered the Territory and Sovereignty Exhibition Hall that opened on Jan. 25 at the Shisei Kaikan building at the entrance to Hibiya Park in downtown Tokyo, a video playing on a loop claimed that that Dokdo is Japanese territory. This is the first time the Japanese government has opened a permanent exhibition hall making that claim.

“We received requests from various places to create a permanent exhibition hall, and we opened this one after funds were allocated in the government’s budget last year,” said Toshiyuki Takebayashi, an official in the Cabinet Secretariat’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination on Territory and Sovereignty.

 Tokyo correspondent)
Tokyo correspondent)

The exhibition is in an area that’s always bustling with tourists and students visiting the Tokyo Imperial Palace and the National Diet Building, both located nearby. The 100 square meter exhibition hall contains information about Dokdo; the Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyudao Islands in China), which are both claimed by China and Japan; and the “Northern Territories” (as Japan calls some of the southern Kuril Islands).

The exhibition displays a panel about the postwar readjustment, which was the starting point for the current Dokdo issue: “At the time of the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco, which dealt with Japan’s territory after the war, South Korea asked the US to include Takeshima on the list of territories that Japan had to give up, but the US rejected that.”

A video is shown which claims that Dokdo is Japanese territory plays at the Territory and Sovereignty Exhibition Hall at the Shisei Kaikan building in downtown Tokyo on Jan. 25. (by Cho Ki-weon
A video is shown which claims that Dokdo is Japanese territory plays at the Territory and Sovereignty Exhibition Hall at the Shisei Kaikan building in downtown Tokyo on Jan. 25. (by Cho Ki-weon

The panel also mentioned that US Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Dean Rusk had sent a memorandum to the South Korean ambassador to the US about one month before the treaty was signed in 1951 saying that “this normally uninhabited rock formation was according to our information never treated as part of Korea.” But the exhibition does not display any of the sources that work against Japan’s claims, such as a message sent from the Great Council of State (the supreme administrative body of Japan during the Meiji period) to the Interior Ministry in 1877 making clear that Dokdo has no relation to Japan.

“South Korea seems to be making energetic claims about territorial issues, but I get the feeling that Japan isn’t doing that. I think it’s good for both sides to be clear about the claims they want to make,” said Yuki Tsukui, 21, a university student who had seen the exhibition. Some of the visitors there also asserted that South Korea was wrong in its claims.

The exhibition epitomizes how Japan has been gradually becoming more aggressive about its territorial claim to Dokdo since former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the islet in 2012.

“We strongly protest the Japanese government’s installation of a territory and sovereignty exhibition hall in Tokyo designed to make inappropriate claims to Dokdo, which is our sovereign territory, and demands that the exhibition hall be immediately closed,” the South Korean government said in a statement released by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Noh Kyu-duk on Jan. 25.

By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent and Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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