A couple of volcanic rocks in the middle of nowhere are the site of an over six-decade old dispute between South Korea and Japan. The tiny treeless islets in the Sea of Japan are controlled by Seoul, which refers to them as Dokdo. But they are also claimed by Tokyo, which calls them Takeshima
Why are the US allies squabbling?
The dispute flared up once again this week, after the flags used at a joint North Korean-South Korean women’s ice hockey team’s practice match before the PyeongChang Winter Olympics showed a blue dot indicating the islands. After Japan lodged a diplomatic protest, South Korea said it would stop using the flag
Why are the two US allies, the only democracies in Northeast Asia which also have common concerns over North Korea and China, squabbling over a bunch of rocks? The dispute would be an afterthought if not for Japan and South Korea’s fraught history
Shadow of the past
Japan colonised the Korean peninsula from 1910-45, and used thousands of Korean women as sex slaves during World War II. Japan insists that the islands were acquired by it earlier in 1905. But since Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910, Japan’s claim evokes memories of its brutal imperialism in the peninsula
3G on the rocks
South Korea took physical control of the islands after Japan’s defeat in World War II and has stationed personnel there since 1954. Though only a fisherman and his wife live there in addition to a few government staff, three South Korean firms provide 3G services to the island. And nearly 150,000 South Korean tourists visit the rocks every year