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Liancourt Rocks

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Liancourt Rocks

Liancourt Rocks
Disputed islands
Other names: Dokdo, Takeshima, Tok Islets
Location of the Liancourt Rocks in the Sea of Japan between South Korea and Japan
Geography
Location Sea of Japan
Coordinates
Total islands 90 (37 permanent land)
Major islands East Islet, West Islet
Area 18.745 hectares (46.32 acres)
East Islet: 7.33 hectares (18.1 acres)
West Islet: 8.864 hectares (21.90 acres)
Highest point Daehanbong (on West Islet)[1]
169 metres (554 ft)
Administered by
South Korea
County Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang
Claimed by
South Korea
County Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang
Japan
Town Okinoshima, Shimane

The Liancourt Rocks,[1] also known as Dokdo or Tokto (Korean pronunciation: ; Hangul독도; hanja獨島, literally solitary island) in Korean, and Takeshima (竹島/たけしま, literally bamboo island) in Japanese,[2] are a group of small islets in the Sea of Japan. While South Korea controls the islets, its sovereignty over them is contested by Japan. South Korea classifies the islets as Dokdo-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang Province.[3] Japan classifies them as part of Okinoshima, Oki District, Shimane Prefecture.

The Franco-English name of the islets derives from Le Liancourt, the name of a French whaling ship which came close to being wrecked on the rocks in 1849.[4]

The Liancourt Rocks consist of two main islets and 35 smaller rocks; the total surface area of the islets is 0.18745 square kilometres (46.32 acres), with the highest elevation of 169 metres (554 ft) found at an unnamed location on the West Islet.[5]

The Liancourt Rocks lie in rich fishing grounds which may contain large deposits of natural gas.[6]

Geography

The Liancourt Rocks consist of two main islets and numerous surrounding rocks. The two main islets, called Seodo (Hangul서도; hanja西島; literally Western Island) and Dongdo (Hangul동도; hanja東島; literally Eastern Island) in Korean, and Ojima (男島; literally Male Island) and Mejima (女島; literally Female Island) in Japanese, are 151 metres (495 ft) apart.[5] The Western Island is the larger of the two, with a wider base and higher peak, while the Eastern Island offers more usable surface area.

Altogether, there are about 90 islets and reefs,[5] volcanic rocks formed in the Cenozoic era, more specifically 4.6 to 2.5 million years ago.Gyeo ngbuk Province 2001a A total of 37 of these islets are recognized as permanent land.

The total area of the islets is about 187,450 square metres (46.32 acres), with their highest point at 169 metres (554 ft) on the West Islet.[5] The western islet is about 88,640 square metres (21.90 acres); the eastern islet is about 73,300 square metres (18.1 acres).[5] The western islet consists of a single peak and features many caves along the coastline. The cliffs of the eastern islet are about 10 to 20 metres (33 to 66 ft) high. There are two large caves giving access to the sea, as well as a crater.

In 2006, a geologist reported that the islets formed 4.5 million years ago and are quickly eroding.[7]

Distances

Liancourt Rocks are located at about 131°52′ East longitude and about 37°14′ North latitude.[5] The western islet is located at and the Eastern Islet is located at .

Liancourt Rocks are situated at a distance of 216.8 kilometres (117.1 nmi) from mainland Korea and 211 kilometres (114 nmi) from the main island of Japan (Honshu). The nearest indisputably Korean island, Ulleung-do, is at a distance of 87.4 kilometres (47.2 nmi), [8][9] while the distance to the nearest indisputably Japanese island, Oki Islands, is 157 kilometres (85 nmi).[9]

Climate

The Liancourt Rocks viewed from the North

Due to their location and small size, the Liancourt Rocks can have harsh weather. If the swell is greater 3 to 5 metres, then landing is not possible so on average ferries can only dock about once in every forty days.[10] Overall, the climate is warm and humid, and heavily influenced by warm sea currents. Precipitation is high throughout the year (annual average—1,324 millimetres or 52.1 inches), with occasional snowfall. Fog is common. In summer, southerly winds dominate. The water around the islets is about 10 °C (50 °F) in early spring, when the water is coldest, warming to about 25 °C (77 °F) in late summer.

Ecology

The islets are volcanic rocks, with only a thin layer of soil and moss.[11] About 49 plant species, 107 bird species, and 93 insect species have been found to inhabit the islets, in addition to local marine life with 160 algal and 368 invertebrate species identified.[12] Although between 1,100 and 1,200 litres of fresh water flow daily, desalinization plants have been installed on the islets for human consumption because existing spring water suffers from guano contamination. Since the early 1970s trees and some types of flowers were planted. According to historical records, there used to be trees indigenous to Liancourt Rocks, which have supposedly been wiped out by overharvesting and fires caused by bombing drills over the islets.[2][13] A recent investigation, however, identified ten spindle trees aged 100–120 years.[14][15] Cetaceans such as killer whales are known to migrate through these areas.[16][17]

Pollution and environmental destruction

A view from one of the rocks on a calm day.

Records of the human impact on the Liancourt Rocks before the late 20th century are scarce, although both Japanese and Koreans claim to have felled trees and killed Japanese sea lions there for many decades.[18][19]

There is a serious concern for pollution in the seas surrounding the Liancourt Rocks. The sewage water treatment system established on the islets has malfunctioned and sewage water produced by inhabitants of the Liancourt Rocks such as South Korean Coast Guard and lighthouse staff is being dumped directly into the ocean. Significant water pollution has been observed; sea water has turned milky white, sea vegetation is progressively dying off, and calcification of coral reefs is spreading. The pollution is also causing loss of biodiversity in the surrounding seas. In November 2004, eight tons of malodorous sludge was being dumped into the ocean every day.[20] Efforts have since been made by both public[21] and private[22] organizations to help curb the level of pollution surrounding the Rocks.

Demographics and economy

From March 1965 Choi Jong-duk, a resident of Ulleung-do, started to dwell on the islets to make a living from fishing. He also helped install facilities from May 1968. In 1981, Choi Jong-dok changed his administrative address to the Liancourt Rocks, making himself the first person to officially live there. He died there in September 1987. His son-in-law, Cho Jun-ki, and his wife also resided there from 1985 until they moved out in 1992. Meanwhile, in 1991, Kim Sung-do and Kim Shin-yeol transferred to the islets as permanent residents, still continuing to live there. In addition to these residents, there are 37 South Korean national police officers on guard duty.
The base that houses South Korean Police Guards on Liancourt Rocks' East Islet.
There are also three Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries personnel, and three lighthouse keepers staying on the islets in rotation.

Since the South Korean Coast Guard was sent to the islets, civilian travel was subject to South Korean government approval; they have claimed that the reason for this is that the islet group is designated as a nature reserve.

The South Korean government gave its approval to allow 1,597 visitors to visit the islets in 2004. Since March 2005, more tourists have received approval to visit. The South Korean government lets up to 70 tourists land at any one given time; one ferry provides rides to the islets every day.[23] Tour companies charge around 350,000 Korean won per person (approx. 250 US dollars as of 2009).[24]

Construction

South Korea has carried out a lot of construction work on the Liancourt Rocks. Today, the islands house a lighthouse, a helicopter pad, a large South Korean flag visible from the air, a post box,[25] a staircase, and police barracks.[26] In 2007, two desalinization plants were built capable of producing 28 tons of clean water every day.[27] Both of the major South Korean telecommunications companies have installed cellular telephone towers on the islets.[28]

Sovereignty dispute

South Korea stamps depicting the Liancourt Rocks from 1954.
Sovereignty over the islands has been an ongoing point of contention in Japan–South Korea relations. There are conflicting interpretations about the historical state of sovereignty over the islets. Korean claims are partly based on references to an island called Usan-do (우산도, 于山島/亐山島) in various medieval historical records, maps, and encyclopedia such as Samguk Sagi, Annals of Joseon Dynasty, Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam, and Dongguk munhon bigo. According to the Korean view, these refer to today's Liancourt Rocks.
A South Korean Police boat approaches the dock on Liancourt Rocks' East Islet.

Japanese researchers of these documents have claimed the various references to Usan-do refer at different times to Jukdo, its neighboring island Ulleungdo, or a non-existent island between Ulleungdo and Korea.[3] (The first printed usage of the name Dokdo was in a Japanese log book in 1904).

Other key points of the dispute involve the legal basis which Japan used to claim the islands in 1905, and the legal basis of South Korea's claim on the islands in 1952.

North Korea reportedly supports South Korea's claim.[29][30]

Notes

  1. ^ "Since the end of World War II, Korea and Japan have contested ownership of these islets, given the name Liancourt Rocks by French whalers in the mid-1800s and called that by neutral observers to this day" (Fern 2005, p. 78).
  2. ^ "There are records attesting to the existence of trees [on Liancourt Rocks] in the past" (BAEK In-ki, SHIM Mun-bo & Korea Maritime Institute 2006, p. 48)
  3. ^ "Such description... rather reminds us of Utsuryo Island" (para. 2); "A study... criticizes... that Usan Island and Utsuryo Island are two names for one island." (para. 3); and "that island does not exist at all in reality" (para. 4 —
  1. ^
  2. ^ BBC staff 2006.
  3. ^ "Pursuant to Act 1395 amending Chapter 14-2, Ri-Administration under Ulleung County, Local Autonomy Law, Ulleung County, passed March 20, 2000, enacted April 7, 2000, the administrative designation of Dokdo addresses as 42 to 76, Dodong-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung County, North Gyungsang Province, is changed to address 1 to 37, Dokdo-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung County, North Gyungsang Province." "2000년 4월 7일 울릉군조례 제1395호로 독도리가 신설됨에 따라 독도의 행정구역이 종전의 경상북도 울릉군 울릉읍 도동리 산42~76번지에서 경상북도 울릉군 울릉읍 독도리 산1~37번지로 변경 됨."[1]
  4. ^ Kirk 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Gyeo ngbuk Province 2001.
  6. ^ BBC staff 2008.
  7. ^
  8. ^ BAEK In-ki, SHIM Mun-bo & Korea Maritime Institute 2006, pp. 20-22.
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Gyeo ngbuk Province 2001b.
  11. ^ Gyeo ngbuk Province 2001a.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ 국민일보 (Gookmin Daily). "독도‘실효적 지배’새 근거 (New Evidence of effective control), 1890년 이전부터 독도서 강치잡이 (Sea lion hunting before 1890) [26 July 2006"]
  19. ^ Japan: Outline of Takeshima Issue
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Ha 2008.
  24. ^ Life in Dokdo Cyber Dokdo
  25. ^ Vladivostok News report
  26. ^ Sang-Hun 2008.
  27. ^ KOIS staff 2007a.
  28. ^ KOIS staff 2007.
  29. ^
  30. ^ Yonhap staff 2011.

References

External links

  • Dokdo Official Website
  • Takeshima (Shimane Prefectural Government, Japan)
  • Dokdo Research Institute (Korea)
  • The Issue of Takeshima(The Issue of Takeshima, Asia, Regional Affairs, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan)
    • 10 Issues of Takeshima (Northeast Asia Division, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan)

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